What Exactly Are You Afraid Of?

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 4, 2013

Kristy called and said that she had decided to leave her husband, a man who hadn't worked in years (no disability), who contributed in no way to the chores around the house, who hadn't done anything with his own children in ages, and who rarely even acknowledged her existence. After practicing Real Love principles for two years, she was much happier and confident, but she was noticing two things: (1) her husband and children—boys ages 23 and 21—hadn't learned anything, and (2) she had hit a ceiling she couldn't rise above. In tears she called me from the car, intending simply to drive away from her house for good.

Kristy said she was filled with fear, so I asked, "What exactly are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid I won't make it," she said.

"You're afraid that you'll end up homeless and starving on the street."


"You have a job now, right?"


"How many friends do you have who would allow you to live with them until you find a place?"


"So you have money and a place to stay."

"Yes, but what will my husband and boys do?"

"That's a separate fear. How many years have those three adults lived off your income and done nothing to help you or to even get a job?"

"Long time."

"Okay, now they'll HAVE to get a job in order to live, but that's THEIR problem. They didn't accept your help as a temporary step on the way to helping themselves, so now they'll HAVE to do something in order to live, won't they? And somehow they'll figure it out. Or they won't, and they just might end up in a homeless shelter. What else are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid I'll lose my boys."

"They're adult men," I said, "and right now how much of a relationship do you have with them?"

"Not much."

"So you're not losing much, are you? Besides, you're not losing them. You can visit them all you want."

"I'm afraid I might be making the wrong decision."

"You might be," I said. "I can't answer that question for you, but I can tell you that you really have tried hard to love and teach them the principles that could make them much happier, and they have paid little or no attention. So it's obvious---after two years of no response—that they don't want to learn from you. Sure, you've made mistakes, but you've really tried. Is your decision to leave the right one? I don't know, but I would mainly ask two questions: Did you do the best you could AT THE TIME, even though your efforts weren't perfect?"

"I suppose I did."

"Second question: How is living in that home with three unmoving, irresponsible, unloving people affecting YOU? Are you learning to be happier—are you continuing to grow—or is the burden of carrying their misery and their continuing to be unloving actually preventing your ability to grow and be happy?"

"Some days I can hardly breathe. It's like a heavy darkness weighing down on me, and I can't seem to find a ray of joy anywhere."

"So let's go over the fears. You're afraid you won't make it, but you really will survive. You're afraid for your husband and sons, but they don't seem to care about their survival. As long as you care about their survival far more than they do, how can they possibly learn responsibility, without which they CAN'T become happy? You're afraid you'll lose your sons, but they'll still be there, except that now you'll have a real relationship with them, instead of just feeding, clothing, and housing them. You're afraid you might be making the wrong decision, but as things are now you have four people drowning. SOMEBODY needs to get out of the water, and as you get stronger, you might actually be able to help them more effectively."

Most of us live our entire lives paralyzed by fears that are not based on reality. We really do need to examine exactly what we're afraid of, and when we can set the fears aside—at least in our minds—we become more capable of receiving the love that is being offered us. With more love, our fears decrease even further, and we can see clearer.

Kristy left her home, and without that burden she became much less fearful and more loving. She's now in a position to love her family better, and her two sons have found jobs to support themselves and their father. Now she's thinking about whether it would be good to move back in with them and love them, or to stay out of a relationship with a man who has quite clearly declared that he does not want a relationship. This time, however, she'll make her decision while she's not afraid.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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