The Paralysis of Fear

We’ve all experienced this familiar feeling. Awakening in the middle of the night to an unknown noise, our minds immediately alert to a perceived danger. From the grogginess of sleep our minds and senses are suddenly sharp and our imaginations are as active as they were in our dream state. As our senses gather all the data and our minds process the information there is but one conclusion. There is an intruder in our house and they have come to cause us great harm.

It takes all of a few seconds to reach this conclusion. It takes the same time for the terrible fear of it all to reach every part of our body and to cause a type of paralysis.

Have you felt it? Have you had those few seconds where you lie there motionless, seemingly unable to move, out of fear? Your eyes trying to match the level of alertness already present in your ears?

It has been a long time since this has happened to me, but it used to happen quite often when I was a child. I can picture it and feel it like it happened last night. Yet I still experience the paralysis of fear, and it is happening to me right now.

Last week I proposed that we all take the time to define the fears in our lives. I hope you did the take the time to consider at least one of your fears and how it may be impacting negatively on your life.

In doing this experiment myself I was surprised to find just how damaging the top fear in my life right now truly is.

My fear is causing me paralysis. No, not a paralysis of physical movement, but a paralysis of inaction.

One of the reasons why I’m where I am rather than where I’ve intended to be, is because I have a huge fear of making the wrong choice. For awhile I feared never finding a path to pursue, and this has now been replaced with a fear of choosing the wrong path.

In front of me I have a few possible projects that I could turn my attention to, each of which are thrilling. Each of these possibilities also enhance the fear of the unknown and I am unsure how and if they would even turn out. And although I feel the usual sense of trepidation for embarking on a new and unknown endeavour, what scares me more is choosing a path, investing my energy and finding that it leads to nowhere much.

You might be wondering why then don’t I just spread my energies over each of these projects, working a little on each. That seems perfectly reasonable, but would be impractical for many reasons. And besides, it defeats the purpose of facing this fear head on. Had I come up with fifty possible projects (and I’m sure I could if I tried), then you probably wouldn’t suggest that I work a little on each. It’s this fear of right versus wrong that I have to face. It’s this irrational fear that my life has a correct destiny that I might never know and that I need to conquer.

My rationality tells me that up to this point in my life I have combined my intelligence and my instincts with the opportunities available and made decisions that have led me to where I am now. I do not perceive any right versus wrong in where I have arrived. Sure, I have a few regrets and could have done things better, but without those experiences I wouldn’t be me, and I’m happy with who I am. So the fact that I feel that in some way one of these projects is more right than the others, truly baffles me.

I also think there is an element of being scared of change. Peter Paluska provided this extremely important insight in his comment about this topic last week. More common than the usual top stated fears of death and public speaking is the fear of change. Perhaps most insidious is the fear of our own success, rather than the fear of our own failure. If we fail our lives won’t change as significantly as compared to how our lives would be altered if our efforts resulted in a raving success. Think about it.

The first crucial step in facing any fear is to shine the light of analysis on it and to see it from all angles. Fears are irrational by nature and applying some rational thought to the matter with a form of internal dialogue can be a helpful beginning. Understanding and accepting that your fears are real for you is another important step towards dissolving the hold they have over you.

If you find that you too are experiencing a type of paralysis from your fears, simply ponder them for awhile. Remember that when you were in your bed, scared stiff from the unknown sounds you were hearing, it only took a few moments before your rational brain kicked into gear, giving some sensible shape to those sounds. You can probably recall the great relief wash over you as you realised that those sounds were nothing at all and you slowly relaxed your body and fell back to sleep.

The fears in your life right now may take longer than this to dissipate, but with persistent and patient reasoning, you can turn your thoughts away from the fear and move once again with confidence through your life.