The Flipside of Fear

This is a blurt post.

There’s stuff going on in my head that I can’t quite seem to work out. Passing snippets that have paired themselves off without quite explaining the pairing, and insights that still remain partially hidden. There is one common thread. It is the word fear.

Fear.

I’m scared.

Belly scared. Paralysed scared. Scared silly….yet not quite sure of the source (there’s so many); nor, if I’m honest, of the emotion (it’s just what I always feel).

Some people say that excitement is the flipside to fear. If this is the case, I wouldn’t recognise it as such because I have only referred to the experience with one word….

Fear.

And me.

Me and fear go way back. For as long as I can remember, I have been scared. Scared of people (who might not like me, or might try and hurt me, or might be out to get me). Scared of change (which might lead to failure, or end in disappointment, or feel different from that which has come before). Scared of living, loving and losing. Scared of feeling, wanting and hoping. Scared of getting it wrong. Scared of getting it right. Scared of not being able to cope.

You get the idea.

Fear has been my default setting, or so I’d come to believe…

It might, upon reflection, be more accurate to consider that the default is the belief that I should be scared.

Seth Godin’s rooms

I said this would be random.

I was reading a post from Seth Godin’s Blog which talked about rooms and moods (and brands and lots of other interesting things). My head has decided that the post belongs with my consideration of fear. There were two sentences that stuck. The first occurs in relation to an analogy of emotions being like rooms -

“But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.”

And the second, about the feelings evoked by experiences (again, described in terms of rooms) –

“…it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.”

I wonder if I do this with fear? If I keep entering the fear room because it’s an emotion that I’ve become accustomed to; one that I am familiar with and able to define.

Why fear?

Seth acknowledges that we sometimes go to emotions that aren’t very comfortable and this would certainly describe fear; so, the next question in my random chain of thinking is why I would gravitate to a state that is so paralysing and has caused me such distress. Where, in other words, is the comfort, for me, in fear?

Time to get uncomfortably honest.

Maybe if I’m scared, then there’s a safety net for failing? Maybe if I build up life into a series of insurmountable challenges, I have a little get-out clause if it goes wrong? Maybe I was scared by one thing and blew it up until it took over the world? Maybe I caught the fear, like a virus, and it stuck? Maybe being scared lets me bury my head in the sand? Maybe I don’t have the emotional language to describe the feeling in any other way?

The flipside to fear

One of my dearest friends is always reminding me that excitement is the flipside to fear. The same emotional experience – just a different way of referring to it.

When I was thinking about my current fear (an imminent flat move) earlier, I felt the little flutter of potential and a gasp of energy, which might be what she was talking about…..

Only, I am also a little scared of excitement. It raises an expectation – so then you can get hurt.

Oh dear. Round we go again.

It takes longer than a couple of hours contemplation and 639 words to change a lifetime of believing that “I’m scared” –

But it takes about a second to ask whether there might be an element of choice in the experience – and whether the vocabulary actually fits.

Read the full post: The places you go

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3 Responses to “The Flipside of Fear”

  1. Sashagoblin says:

    I have that with loneliness, tbh. It’s suffocatingly painful, but it’s familiar. I remember falling in love with the boy and letting him in and letting go of it and how, well, yes, terrifying that was. I’m not big on fear as a rule. If it’s a room, it’s the cupboard uder the stairs, I only go in if I need to use something there. But I am big on loneliness. That’s the living room, or the kitchen, or the bedroom – somewhere I am a lot, where I rest or from where I create things, the place I live.

    Sorry,I’m not sure how that’s meant to help! Other than yeah, I get. And *hugs*. x

  2. I think this is a really thought-provoking post. For me, I think the safety net in fear comes from my family (and my Dad in particular). He is always so over cautious when it comes to us girls and his fear of not making the same mistakes has rubbed off onto us. Most of the time, these fears are unfounded or petty.

    Don’t forget your travel insurance – I hadn’t, but being reminded made me a little fluttery about travelling. To my sister, don’t use all your savings to visit your boyfriend – despite the agony and devastation not going was causing her to feel, and despite being able to replace her savings and having never ever been in debt. You get the picture.

    Fear breeds fear. When those we love inadvertently pass on their fears to us (in the guise of protecting us from said fears), we are left worse off than if they were to let us make our own mistakes. We stop letting ourselves make mistakes and stop learning.

    Yes, this is safe. This is known. But, given the choice you talked about, what would we rather have:

    1. A safe life. Full of mediocre events, mediocre people and little hope. Some laughs, some crying, but nothing special.

    OR

    2. A life with a few risks. Sometimes, these will turn out badly and we’ll be hurt, get a few scars. But then there’ll be some truly amazing times, experiences and people. Lots of hope and just a little bruising.

    I’d rather a few bumps any day; however scary.

  3. Hi..

    Wonderful post!!

    You know the saying… “The greatest thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”..

    It is sooo true… I read a book called Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway – a few years ago. You’ve possibly read it already, but I found it really useful for overcoming fear…

    In terms of excitement and fear.. I always find that both feelings go hand in hand. If I’m excited I’m usually afraid as well… and anxious :-) I think many of us are… for the reason you point out… especially if you have been excited and disappointed in the past.. The key is to feel the fear and do it anyway – then – you will no longer be afraid! And your boundaries to fear will widen. I know it is much much easier said than done – and I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you hadn’t thought already… I still find myself held back by fear at times…

    Beautiful post – I’ve spent quite a lot of time pondering over fear and excitement and the connection between the two myself, over the years..

    Your writing is wonderful btw – such a lovely flow to it…