149. Now I'm Stuck On The Fear Of ...
On the ever morphing nature of disordered anxiety and irrational fear.
Take a moment to think about what you’re most afraid of today. Maybe you’re stuck on heart-focused fear. Or maybe it’s your breath. Maybe you’re worried about having a psychotic break, passing out, or the thought that you might not love your partner. Maybe you are struggling with existential thoughts or the sensation of nausea.
There are more expressions of anxious, disordered, irrational fear than I can possibly list here. Panic disorder, agoraphobia, OCD, health anxiety, and other anxiety disorders can be REALLY creative. Much more than that, they can also be quite shifty and elusive. Often, fears will morph, change, and evolve over time.
So while you may be afraid of one thing today and certain that it is the scariest thing ever, was there a time when you were saying the same thing about another thing? In my experience I was afraid of blood clots, being poisoned, accidentally committing suicide, dying alone at an old age, a heart attack, a stroke, slipping away from reality, and somehow harming my kids if I had to be alone with them. Some of these co-existed, but they all came and went over time. One fear would flare up, then another would take its place weeks later. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. It was confusing, and VERY frustrating!
The point is that once we notice this, we have a clue that we can leverage in our recovery. We know that we do not recover by thinking alone. We can’t just decide to change our mindset and feel better. But knowing, seeing, and understanding does inform ACTION - the key to recovery. When we can see that our fears change over time, we can see that the thing we are afraid of today is no different than the thing we were afraid of two months ago. Then we can ACT accordingly.
When you are sure that needing to find a toilet is the worst, scariest problem in the known universe, you can look back and remember when you were sure that not getting enough air occupied the same position. What does this tell you? Is it the content of the current fear that really matters? Is it really as important as you are sure that it is? How can so many disasters all be equally probable and worthy of evasive action one after the other?
If I told you that I am an absolute die hard New York Rangers fan, but you know that you saw me rooting for the New York Islanders just a few months back, you would have reason to question my love of the Rangers. “Does he really like the Rangers, or is that just the hockey flavor of the month for him?” That would be a fair question!
So, when you find that your fear is morphing, shifting, and changing, take a few steps back and consider that maybe it’s not the most dangerous thing in the world. Maybe it’s just the fear flavor of the month for you. Once you can grasp this and act accordingly, the game really does change. Learning to navigate through today’s fear using basic principles means you can do the same with tomorrow’s fear without returning to “square one”.
If you’re wanting to do the hard things to get better, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it, the ability to tolerate fear and discomfort - distress tolerance - might be the missing puzzle piece for you. Have you checked out the webinar I’m doing with Joanna Hardis on this topic?