What is Fear Telling You?


When we're going through a challenging experience like a breakup or divorce, a big part of how we experience it has to do with what we're telling ourselves about the situation. Most of the time our lives are like a sporting event on television; we have our own little announcers in our heads giving us a running commentary on what's happening at any given time and what it all means. Often these internal voices are so much a part of our experience that we respond and react to them without even being fully aware of what they're saying. And often what they have to say is something disempowering, discouraging,or distressing, because they are coming from a place of fear. And fear's absolute, number one, favorite thing to tell us, in one way or another, is this:


Why does fear tell us this? Because it's actually trying to keep us safe and prevent us from getting hurt. And unfortunately the only way it knows how to do that is to make us feel small and incapable. Fear figures that if it scares us into believing that we're not smart, attractive, or whatever-enough then we won't take risks that might end up hurting us. The best way it knows how to do this is by reminding us and telling stories about how we got hurt in the past, and why that means we shouldn't ever try anything like that again because we won't be able to handle it. Unfortunately, fear is so concerned for our safety that it fails to realize all of our strengths and accomplishments. It also ignores the fact that we truly want more passion, joy, and intimacy in our lives in order to be our true selves, and we can only have those things when we're willing to risk getting hurt.

Happily, we all have another internal voice that wants to be heard: the voice of freedom. Sometimes it isn't as loud as the voice of fear, so we need to practice listening to it. Because fear will lie to us, while freedom tells us the truth. Fear will twists facts based in reality to try to convince us that we're not good enough, while freedom knows that there is beauty in being imperfect and making mistakes because that's what makes us human.

Now, the particular words that our own personal fear-based internal announcer voice uses may be different on the surface, but they can all be traced back to that one message of not being good enough. So, what kind of things is fear telling you about a breakup? Here are a few common things we allow fear to tell us:

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?" When you ask yourself this you're starting with two assumptions: that there is something wrong with you, and that this is the reason that the relationship ended. In other words, YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. According to fear, relationships operate on some kind of merit system in which people who don't measure up get tossed aside. So what do you do when you tell yourself this? You beat yourself up, and you say and do things that are different from who you really are so that others will approve of you, robbing yourself (and them) of the opportunity for true intimacy.

Another twist on the same concept is, "WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE FOR LEAVING ME? I'M BETTER THAN THEY ARE". On the surface you sound confident, like you believe in yourself. And yet you're still listening to fear telling you that relationships are some kind of contest, and you've just been unfairly disqualified by judges who don't know what they're talking about. You'll start by building up evidence for why you're actually better than they are. But underneath will be the nagging question, "If you're really better than them, how come they broke up with you? You lost the contest, so somehow, even if you can't see it, probably it's because YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH."

The voice of freedom, on the other hand, knows that relationships aren't a contest. It will remind you that in reality the most physically beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, kind, and successful people experience heartbreak too. Freedom is confident in the knowledge that somewhere at this very moment a stunningly attractive multimillionaire with an advanced degree and a humanitarian award on their wall is going through the pain of a breakup. Why? Because they simply were in a relationship that wasn't right for them. Freedom will tell you, "I may not be perfect, since I'm human, and there may be things in myself that I want to work on in the future, yet when I am in a relationship that is truly right for me my partner will appreciate me for who I am."


"I JUST LOST THE BEST THING I EVER HAD". I hear this one quite a bit. What I've come to realize is that when we say this to ourselves and others, what we're often really saying is, "I JUST LOST THE BEST THING I'M EVER GOING TO HAVE", i.e., "I'M NEVER GOING TO FIND ANYTHING BETTER". Why? Because according to fear, YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. You've blown it. Love is a lottery, you had a winning ticket, and you lost it. So what do you do? You give up, convinced that you have lost your one and only chance at happiness.
Freedom, on the other hand, will tell you, "Maybe that relationship WAS the best I ever had. That means that the quality of my relationships has been improving. If this relationship was really great, and since I was responsible for half of it, that actually means I have a better chance of building a relationship that's just as good or better in the future".


"I DON'T CARE". This is a tricky one. On the surface it can seem strong and empowering. And yet what you're telling yourself (and other people) is that you don't believe it's okay for you to have feelings about the breakup, either because you somehow don't deserve to have the feelings or you're afraid that you can't handle them, or both. Or that other people will think that you're pathetic. In other words, YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. So what do you do? You keep talking to your ex; you smile when mutual friends start talking about the new person your ex is dating; you start dating someone else before you have a chance to mourn and truly get over the relationship that has ended. You make yourself more and more unhappy, all because you keep telling yourself that "you don't care".

What freedom would have to say is, "I actually do care about this, and that's normal and okay. I'm a human being with feelings and relationships mean something to me. I'm allowed to go through this without pretending that everything's fine right now. I can handle painful feelings and come through them okay. And I can ask for support if I need it."


So my question to you is, what is fear telling you about a breakup, or any other challenging situation in your life? In what ways is fear twisting the facts of a situation to try to convince you that you're not good enough? What would freedom have to say about it?


The BreakUp Coach

© 2007 Sasha Carr Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
Content may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

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