Fear is a powerful driving force
For as long as I can remember, I have been driven primarily by fear in a thousand different ways. I have been afraid of being too tall, too husky, too uncoordinated, too boring, too needy, and on and on. I have been afraid of heights, fish, public speaking, women, men, people that are different from me, success, and failure.
Being afraid has driven a wedge between me and good people in my life. It has cost me many experiences that could have possibly enriched my life in ways I will never know. It has undoubtedly saved me from the risk of injury and/or vulnerability from time to time but, at what cost? I will never really know and I am grateful that I won’t because I am certain this would lead to monumental regrets.
Perhaps this is biological hardwiring or the result of adverse childhood experiences. Research and lots of hours in therapy tell me it is a combination of the two. Seeking to understand the roots of my fears has not cured me of them but it has given me a clearer orientation to them. This has, in turn, given me a better understanding of what to do my fears.
Turning fear into joy
I am pretty open and chatty about my fears because acting like they aren’t there hasn’t been very helpful to me. I also believe my secrets keep me sick and historically, keeping my fears hidden in shadow turns them into cancer. I also share my fears openly because they have become a source of great joy in my life. They really have.
You see, each time I feel a fear welling up inside me: my body tensing up, my heart skipping a beat, butterflies in my stomach, or, the urge to run tingling in my feet, I know therein lies some great direction. It isn’t hard for me to look back and see evidence that all of the very best things in my life waited just beyond the scariest moments of my life.
I remember the crippling fear of even considering a life of sobriety. The years of anguish I willingly endured rather than ask for help or walk through the doors of a treatment center. Eleven sober years later, I am full of gratitude for this life.
I still feel the nervous dread of walking into my yoga teacher training with almost zero yoga experience. How this fear compounded upon realizing I was the only guy in the group and considerably less fit than my cohort. Seven years and thousands of hours of training and practice later, it is still a source of so much joy in my life.
Swimming with dolphins in the ocean, floating the insane whitewater of the Lochsa River, jumping off an old bridge into the Gallatin River, opening my own business, having a child, and writing my first blog; substantial fear and anxiety precipitated all of these accomplishments.
Choosing love as a guide
Every time I feel this fear rise up, I think of the song Cautious Man by Bruce Springsteen. In the song he writes, “On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love and on his left hand was the word fear; and in which hand he held his fate was never clear.”
I don’t want to live like that. I want it to be clear that fear doesn’t run my show. I want to live life from a space of openness and enthusiasm and love, so, I ask myself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if you were driven by love instead?”
When I ask myself these questions and listen for the answer from my true self, I am never disappointed with the direction I receive.