On fear and fighting it

“Don’t go to places alone. You don’t know the people there”

“You can’t live on your own. You are too afraid”

“You trust easily and with naïveté. You need someone else to help with that”

It started off as advice at different life stages, coming from a place of deep love and concern for my well-being from those closest to me.

It became restricting, resonating reality.

The first wave of realisation was,

  1. I am listening to voices from my past, played tape recorder fashion, and am using them to make decisions now
  2. These decisions are based on fear

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Hm. Fear. What was the big one? Dark. Always. Listening to well-intentioned people repeatedly reminding me, “You are afraid of the dark, how will you manage?”meant that I was setting myself up for a life of being afraid of the dark.

That almost happened.

Second wave of realisation: It was time for some changes.

A year back, I got the chance to move 900m away from my home of 10 years, and that coincided with the idea of setting up my own indie work practice.

This place was a small cottage, on a large property, where I sometimes lived alone. So much dark, so much fear. With massive conscious effort (and events like sleeping in a tent in the South African bush, with a pack of hyenas scratching the tent, and doing the hyena laugh), that fear is no longer relevant.

img_5280-1 Hyena tearing into a fresh impala carcass just hours before the camp. Reassuring. NOT!  

Funny, how what was easily encapsulated in a para took close to 40 years to get to and get over.

Dark. Check.

Next fear?

Fear of external threats.

In 18 years working in people functions, I’d faced enough to be fearful of: have had a knife aimed at me, have had threats issued if I entertained a complaint, been cornered by and verbally assaulted by predatory colleagues (some senior and some male, but not necessarily always so). I might’ve stuck my chin out at them and invited them to do their worst (read too many books to back off from a threat or show weakness in the face of trouble), but I’ve carried the fears with me. Life’s scary, as it is, it’d seem.

Oh . hang on…

The fear of internal threats. The mind at 2am, saying, “What if…”

The fear of losing out in the corporate race, in my 20s; the fear of financial unsoundness, in my 30s; the fear of not being relevant to the market… errr, last week… the list is quite, quite long. New fears keep turning up as the last one is vanquished.

While these are valid concerns, when they become crippling fear and curb action… because what looms ahead is murky and has foggy claws that creep towards the feet… that’s when bolting is easier than walking toward it.

The third wave of realisation:

The trick was to ask myself, what is the pattern of my fears? What is the fuel? What is the deepest fear, that which I’m always running away from? The one that I WILL face. (ref. The Hero’s Journey). The mother of all fears that reside inside me, if you will.

Hat tip, at this moment, to the Transactional Analysis 101 programme that started off the inquiry with more depth that I’d experienced so far. I asked myself, when do I tend to play victim? What are my drivers? Why is it important for me to be strong/ be a people pleaser? With that amazing combination, is it a wonder that I freeze before asking anyone for help? What is the script of my life that I am writing and what are stories I tell myself? How are they arresting me from going forward on my own hero’s journey?

(Side note: That’s happening again, in case you are interested & want to share with someone who will benefit. Navgati, the folks doing this, don’t take the word “expert” lightly. You will be astounded, guaranteed!).

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So, where am I now, you wonder?

In addition to listening to Dumbledore’s advice about turning on the light, I also learnt to embrace the light there is in life.

On the other side of the fear of darkness was lovely blessed solitude that is life-enriching. I learnt freshly what the shape and colours of my solitude were and I cherish it now.

In closing,

I go to places where I don’t know anyone all the time. That’s adulting. I am pretty darn good at it. Last week, I stood alone in the dark behind St. Mark’s complex to pick up my towed vehicle, amid some large men with moustaches. They were polite and solicitous, so I made friends, bought them tea, and learnt about their lives a little.

I am sometimes afraid, but I’ve learnt, so is everyone else, and that is okay.

I do trust easily. That’s a choice. I’m not accused of naïveté very much. I get by with a little help from my friends: I do a mental “What would X or Y do?” – that, if I can’t get ahold of them in a hurry and talk to them. Their values closely match mine, so I tend to rely on their judgment. When in doubt, I invoke their voices for a second opinion and do what feels right.

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