The Truth About Fear That We Need To Remember

Woman looking out of mask.

Fear is a strange thing.

When we’re children, it makes us scared, whether it’s the monster under the bed or that first failing grade. It might be the threat of punishment for our misdeeds, like soaping windows or making prank phone calls.

(Okay, I’m showing my age here. Do kids still do those things?)

Whatever the case may be, when we’re young we feel the fear; it’s simple and straight forward.

But, when we grow up, fear can manifest itself differently. Depending on the situation, it may come out as anger.

A therapist once told me that fear and anger are closely related, often involving other emotions such as guilt and hurt feelings.

Not so straight forward anymore.

When I think back on my own life I remember different scenarios that evoked both fear and anger. At various times, depending on my age, I responded to them very differently.

As I scrolled through social media this weekend, I got a strong sense that there are a lot of frightened people in the world today. While their fears might be somewhat different, the emotions they’re feeling are the same.

An Interpersonal Communications class taught me that we’re all unique in our worldview. The environments in which we grow up (nature and nurture) shape our beliefs and opinions about everything.

Lucky children experience unconditional love and kindness from their parents or caretakers. They’re taught to respect themselves and others.

However, many are not so fortunate. What we learn as youngsters create the type of adults we become. 

After a certain age, this worldview is extremely difficult to change. It can be done, but only with honest self-reflection and a desire to better understand ourselves and others.

Realizing that our anger and hostility is a mask for fear can help us to become more compassionate with ourselves. Only then can we extend that compassion to those around us.

I do feel the majority of people want to achieve the same goals but have different ideas on how to reach them. If we want to accomplish anything, we have to begin by changing our attitudes.

Actively listening to the other person requires us to fully concentrate, understand, and respond in a respectful manner. This conveys to the speaker that we care about the feelings that lie beneath the words.

It’s the technique used in conflict resolution. Employing this approach with ourselves and others allows us to have an honest dialogue and struggle together toward a common goal.

Will it work every time? Probably not. Are there people who simply can’t be reached? Most likely.

But, one thing is certain. Not trying will ensure that we never reach common ground and to me, that’s the scariest thought of all.




How People Treat Others

Self compassion is something that I’ve acquired in greater measure over the last ten years.

The need for it came slowly into my awareness during a period of great external life changes: an abrupt end to years of verbal & emotional abuse, separation & divorce from the person I was with for almost 30 years, leaving my home of 19 years, and living on my own for the first time ever. 

Anytime we experience upheaval in our lives it pushes us outside of our comfort zones, but that’s not always a bad thing.

It forces us to take a hard look at who we really are and how we’re living. I saw a quote from an article that summed it up this way:

The other side of pain is not comfort, or health, or well-being. It is truth.~ Jennifer Waite

Living an authentic life isn’t easy. As we grow older we often conform to the rules of society and other people, in order to be accepted. 

We stay in bad marriages “for the children.” We stay in jobs we hate because it’s “safer.” We subscribe to religions we no longer believe in because it’s “what we’ve always done.” We hide our true feelings, put away our dreams, and pretend to be something we’re not. 

Don’t rock the boat, don’t step on toes, don’t question authority and don’t challenge the status quo.

Don’t believe it.

Dr. Suess

It takes a lot of self compassion to step outside the “uncomfortable-comfort zone” and be the person we’re meant to be. Particularly when doing so puts us at odds with our families and inner circles. Oftentimes, it causes great conflict and leads to the breakup of relationships.

But we must always accept who we are if we’re to live honestly. If we don’t, we grow to hate ourselves and eventually the people around us. 

Reports about the shooter in the Orlando tragedy are saying he was a regular patron of the Pulse nightclub, where he so hatefully ended many lives and forever changed so many others. 

Was he “casing the joint” in preparation for his murderous act or was he a closeted homosexual male, struggling with his real identity? If so, he was rejected by his father and the religion he followed. They taught him that gays are only worthy of death, unless they reject that part of themselves. 

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us. ~ Hermann Hesse

As the saying goes, “Judging other people doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are.” Self acceptance and self compassion are never selfish acts, they are acts of love towards the self. When we accept and offer compassion to others, it is an act of love to the other. As Terri Guillemets said, “A loving heart heals hate.”

I say let’s all do our part and let the healing begin.