One of the first steps in controlling our Dark Side is by identifying fears. Fears, unless identified and faced, will continue to steer our lives in a direction that avoids the life we have envisioned for ourselves. Fears can show up as anger, procrastination, pushing away people, or other avoidance behaviors.
To identify those situations that we fear, we have to look beneath the surface reactions and emotions. We may not want to go to a party because we think we don’t want to encounter someone, or be there on our own. What is the fear that is driving those blocks to showing up?
Perhaps we are afraid of changing careers, breaking off a relationship, or having children. However, what is the true fear lurking underneath each one of these scenarios? Why are we afraid of breaking off a relationship? It may be because we have a fear of being alone.
No matter the fear, once it is identified we can use our Hoffman tools to rid ourselves of our Dark Side messages. A Hoffman grad advised she used to have a persistent fear about growing old alone. Using Hoffman tools, she remembered how her grandmother used to regularly express her own fear about growing old alone. The grad then realized this was how her pattern originated and that it was not her own fear. She laughs about it now, because she knows it is not her pattern and she does not have to own it any longer.
Fears Can Strengthen Us
Tackling fear puts us on the path of our purpose – and strengthens us along the way. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing that scares you every day. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Some of our fears can be difficult to identify because we may unconsciously be avoiding any situation that would put us in contact with our fear. For instance, if we have a fear of rejection, we may automatically avoid certain social situations.
Perhaps we chalk up our lack of social interaction to having a “bookish” or “introverted” personality. Our behavior may have compensated for our fear for so long that we assume it is part of our personality – instead of recognizing that fear is dictating our behavior.
Anger & Fears
So, how do we identify our unconscious fears? One way to identify them is to ask what makes us angry. Yes, anger is usually masking a fear. Let’s assume we are stuck in traffic. We’ve rounded a bend and see the long line of red taillights ahead. Anger may start to rise in reaction to the traffic jam.
In the midst of our anger, we can take advantage of the opportunity to ask ourselves what is scaring us. Perhaps we have a fear of not being in control, or a fear of being trapped. Maybe we fear the unknown, and if we don’t know what is causing the traffic jam, we don’t know how long we will be sitting there. Perhaps we have a fear of abandonment and are afraid that we will be left on the road and no one will provide us with help, if needed. Once these fears are identified, they can be overcome!
Identifying the Worst That Could Happen
If we are already aware of a fear but it seems to persist, dig deeper into the fear by asking, “What is the worst that could happen?” This is a powerful tool to identify a root pattern. For instance, if we feel guarded in relationships, we may easily identify our fear of intimacy. However, fear of intimacy can feel like too broad a subject to tackle. It helps to pinpoint some underlying fears at work.
We can ask ourselves, “If I let down my guard in a relationship, what is the worst that could happen?” We may then recall the childhood experiences of betrayal from those who were supposed to protect us. If the fear of betrayal is really fueling the fear of intimacy, tackling the betrayal fear first is key.
The next time we react by putting up our guard in a relationship, we can ask ourselves if there is any rational evidence that someone has betrayed us. Doing this separates the fear generated from the past from our present reality. (Popular acronyms for fear are “False Evidence Appearing Real,” “Forgetting Everything is All Right,” and “False Emotions Appearing Real.”)
Keep Asking Questions
Each time we do a reality check, we decrease our fear of betrayal. We can continue to dig deeper and ask, “If I am being betrayed, what is the worst that could happen?” This may identify a fear of being alone. We can then look at our lives and ask ourselves – in a world of 7 billion people – would we, in fact, be alone?
Getting in touch with fear may seem like a daunting exercise, but removing the obstacle of fear from our lives, the feeling of freedom that replaces it, and the way in which we are able to move forward in our lives, is priceless. Just keep asking questions!