Fear is one of those emotions which is hard to put your finger on, and impacts human beings in a variety of ways. Fear IS the great equalizer. It does not care who you are, how much money your family has, or what you do for a living. Fear means different things to different people, yet none of us are immune to how it affects our health or to the paralyzing effects it can have on our life.
In the article, Fighting Fear - Understanding the Battle Can Help You Win the War I emphasized the importance of acknowledging the battle, our enemy, and utilizing different weapons in the battle against fear. While this is all true, more is needed if you want to find victory over your fear. It is not enough just to know how to fight, there is more work to be done. An important part of finding true healing from fear and anxiety is having a proper understanding of their roots.
Taking A Second Look
Whether you realize it or not, you are making or avoiding certain decisions based on fear. In his book, “Winning The War In Your Mind,” Pastor Craig Groeschel says, “Our lives are always moving in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” Our fears are often some of our strongest, most visited thoughts. If you are battling fear, chances are that your fears are heavily influencing your decisions. One thing I have observed over time is fear negatively affects my ability to make good, balanced, well-thought-out decisions.
Play It Out
To better understand how this directly impacts my life, I did a brief informal search to approximate how many decisions humans make each day. The majority of online sources say this could be around 35,000. For this example, let us use 5,000 as the number of decisions I make in a day. If fear is negatively influencing even half(2,500) of those decisions, I am making a lot of very poor decisions. This definitely warrants taking a second look.
Break It Down
While the context of our fears may be vastly different, they all seem to fall into similar categories. These feelings we experience can often be traced to fears associated with undesirable or unwanted outcomes. These outcomes can be based on anything from a nightmare to a traumatic event or series of events we have experienced in our past. They can also involve phobias, as I discussed briefly in Fighting Fear - Understanding the Battle Can Help You Win the War. Regardless of where they come from, living from victory often starts by getting to the bottom of these fears. A proper understanding goes a long way.
Undesirable outcomes happen every day.
Let that sink in for just a moment. Undesirable outcomes happen each day. Learning to process these outcomes properly is key. So Craig, why do people so often obsess over preventing them? Why not simply learn how to process these situations?
I cannot speak for others, but I can speak about my personal experience. The undesirable outcomes bouncing around in my brain are worst-case scenarios. These are catastrophic type exaggerations of what could happen. My brain is obsessing over these types of scenarios at scale. When I say at scale, I mean every day, sometimes more than once a day. I do not focus on them, but they show themselves when I make decisions.
For me, it has not always been this way. This type of torture began in my late twenties. Before that, I was largely optimistic. This type of thinking fluctuates greatly. Sometimes I go a while without thinking this way. Before we can truly tackle how to find freedom from these undesirable outcomes, we need to give them a name. We need to see how they stack up so we can attack them.
3 Common Categories Of Undesirable Outcomes
To better understand how our fears fall under different forms of unwanted or undesirable outcomes, I have chosen what I see as the most common categories of undesirable outcomes. I fully understand that these categories will not cover all fears, but I hope that this simplification will aid in understanding.
Loss is one of those feelings which is broad in scope and cuts deep into our psyche. All humans experience loss at some point in their lives and it is this loss that we desperately try to protect ourselves from in the future. For you loss might be the death of a loved one, for another, it might be the loss of a job or an opportunity. For others, it might be something completely different. We fear missing out, having opportunities, and loved ones taken from us. We cannot get these people or situations back and that loss scares us.
While we all can identify with loss on some level, regret holds a different type of sting than loss. Most have experienced the gut-wrenching feeling which comes as we realize that something we did or perhaps failed to do, led to an undesirable result. It could be saying the wrong words or actions we wish we could take back. Regret comes after the words have left our lips. It is choosing to take one opportunity when another was what we truly wanted. Somehow it is still fascinating how regret only works looking backward.
Regardless of your current financial situation or the financial reality of where you grew up, we all have different definitions of what scarcity means.
If you have ever found yourself suddenly in a position of great need then most likely you understand the feelings which come with scarcity. There is a great deal of loss that comes from being let go from a job, but this loss can lead to fear of not having enough. If you grew up poor, scarcity has a completely different vibe, yet shares similar feelings. These fear-filled feelings which flood our minds during these times can go on to haunt us forever.
Understanding the Source of Our Fears
As we start to examine our fears through the lens of undesirable outcomes, we can begin to understand their origins. If we have any hope of addressing these fears we realize we need to understand and address the source of our fears. It is with this new understanding that we can begin the process of healing. Because healing is what we’re after, right?
There are certain situations or certain outcomes which we do everything in the power of our subconscious mind to avoid. We might not ever bring them to the forefront, but our habits tell the story. Our habits close the door to our closets because we do not dare let the monsters come out at night. We do our best to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the monsters who lie waiting in the dark. Our subconscious stockpiles food or money because we will never be left without it again. We find ourselves incessantly decontaminating the things in our home or washing our hands so we never cause another to be sick or even die because we failed to make sure everything was germ-free.
Poking Holes in Your Fears
If we want to find any hint of progress we need to look deeply at our categories of fear and start asking ourselves the hard questions. Questions like, what lies am I believing which reinforce my fear of not having enough? Will my family die if I do not check the locks on our house for the tenth time? It is time to look at these fears between the eyes and test their validity. It is time to poke holes in the fears which have held you for so long. Is there any truth behind what has held me captive for so long? Let us find the wholes in the stories we have been subconsciously telling ourselves all these years.
If these stories do hold up, at least we will know we have not been living a lie all these years. We will know that these habits were there for a reason. I believe that as you begin to try and punch holes in your fears, you will discover the stories do not hold up when exposed to the light. You will discover a sense of freedom from these lies which have added so much weight to the mundane places in your life. Later, we’ll look at the lies we are believing. We will take a deep dive into where the lies come from, how we can practically address each one in hopes of finding true healing.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Proverbs 12:25 NIV