Friday, June 11, 2010

Eliminating Fear

As someone who has struggled with social anxiety disorder for a good portion of my adult life, initially self-medicating with alcohol until the alcohol eventually turned on me, exacerbating the condition, I have had an intimate relationship with fear.

I have also, at varying times, been on beta blockers, Ativan (lorazepam), Paxil, and Cymbalta, all in an attempt to just function--hell, to just be able to walk into my own classroom on some days.

Most of my fears centered around potential damage that might be done to me--and when I keep peeling back the layers and looking at the "whys," usually the damage simply involved my own ego. I feared being hurt. I feared being left. I feared being unattractive. I feared being perceived as stupid, or mean, or selfish, or unlikable, or humorless. The biggest fear, by far, was the fear of acknowledging I even feared these things. It had to be some "disorder," some "condition," not me--because I am not some pussy. Right?

Well, now I'm alcohol-free and off all anxiety-relieving drugs. And I can say with utter conviction that Franklin D. Roosevelt was right. Fear is not something "out there." Fear is all "in here." "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he intoned famously. Fear is the mind-killer. It paralyzed me. In my quest to not be hurt, I wouldn't take risks. So I kept myself small. And in doing that, I became the very things I feared.

That is just plain crazy.

Here is some wisdom I read today at In the Rooms:

In the film Fearless, Jeff Bridges portrays a man named Max who narrowly escapes death in a plane crash. In surrendering to im­minent death, he loses all fear, and when he goes on with his life, he finds himself unafraid in a world motivated by mistrust and deception. His lawyer wants him to lie to exact a larger settlement from the airline company; his wife cannot handle the truth he is now unafraid to tell about their numb relationship; and his psychologist thinks he has gone mad (while he has actually gone sane).

In a poignant scene, Max momentarily gives in to pressure to lie, which leaves him painfully contracted. To vent the horror he feels, he climbs onto the roof of a tall building and screams at the top of his lungs. Watching this symbolic scene, I wondered how loud would be the cries of humanity if we all went up on a roof and screamed at the top of our lungs in proportion to the pain and constriction we have experienced by living in ways that are inconsistent with our true nature.

Fear is not our ordained condition. Psychologists tell us that infants are born with only two fears-that of falling, and loud noises; every other fear is learned. Fear is not a reality, because if it were, everyone would be afraid of the same things.

To live in fear is not natural, and neither is it our destiny. Our destiny is to live in peace and express joy. Dump fear by trusting life to provide for you as you live your truth.


Julie B said...

Keep writing this stuff Joyce and one day I just might believe it myself! It is a difficult battle, the one with fear. The movie Fearless left an indelible memory even though I saw it nearly 20 years ago. I especially remember the scene where Bridges crashes his car with Rosie Perez holding a toolbox to teach her she could not have saved her baby. It was a powerful movie.

Joyce said...

I do have that movie on DVD somewhere but it's been so long since I saw it I hardly remember it. I do remember that car crash scene and I recall feeling a bit shaken by the film. I should probably find it and watch it again with these new eyes o' mine.