The Fearless Life

I’m appreciating everyday the process I’ve learned with NVC to become free of some of the fear in my life. My goal is to have a happier life, and that won’t happen in a life full of fear, so I’m working on decreasing the fear in my life. I found this writing to be very helpful in clarifying some of the thoughts around this. Beliefs play a major role in our fear. We have a natural, innate fear of certain things that has been built into our brain. This is related to actual, physical harm.

We have learned over our lifespan to fear things that aren’t related to physical harm. These are related to beliefs. When we experience shame, embarrassment, anxiety, any number of feelings related to unmet needs, we become fearful of experiencing that again. We learn to be afraid of the situation that stimulated those feelings. What’s important to remember are the beliefs we had about that situation formed our perspective that lead us to believe our needs weren’t being met. For example, if I’m a child who is called on in class to answer a question, and I don’t know the answer, and I’ve been taught to believe that I’m not a competent person, a person of worth, unless I know the answer, I will feel shame. I will believe there is something wrong with me. I won’t want to experience that again. I will become afraid of having an experience like that again and will change my behavior somehow to try to avoid this. That is a trap because we are just validating that belief by trying harder to know everything. However, if I have learned that what I know, say and do has nothing to do with my value as a person, I will experience that situation differently.

Fear is one of the strongest teachers, and we have figured that out. If I can connect a behavior I want to change in you to fear, I will probably be very successful at that change. That is the crux of punishment in children. If I can make a consequence of some behavior so uncomfortable that the child develops a fear of having that ever happen again, I will be successful at changing that behavior. Unfortunately our learned fears over a lifetime actually lead to an unhappier life.

The real key to happiness is to uncover those beliefs that are driving your perceptions. When you begin to understand that perhaps you have a deep, hidden belief that if you make a mistake you are not a worthy person, or if you make a mistake you will loose something very valuable to you, or if you make people unhappy there is something wrong with you; you will begin to let go of these and become happier. It is so freeing to instead develop the belief that you are worthy just as you are, that you are responsible only for your intentions, not for the responses of others.

In the diagram below you can see how fear drives behaviors. As you can see from the diagram however, it’s the perception of the threat that is core to the problem. When you feel yourself experiencing fear or anxiety you can do two things that will really help you in the long run. First face the issue or focus, and that involves feeling the feelings involved with this no matter how painful. By doing this you will self-connect, which in itself leads you to relief or peace. The second is to step back, understand what you are doing, and find the beliefs that are leading you to the unmet needs that are stimulating the feelings. This will help you understand what your perception is. The red lines were the piece missing from that diagram. Without changing your perception, although you can get relief from that situation, you are doomed to repeat it. By changing your beliefs you can stop the entire process and become happier.

paths of fear

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