July 31

The Fear Loop

July 31, 2017

Personal Growth

Most people live in fear all their lives. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. Regrettably, fear distorts everything we see, think, and feel, as well as all our behaviors. While we’re afraid, we can’t see people or circumstances clearly, can’t participate in healthy relationships, and can’t make wise decisions. Why then would we choose to live in a condition guaranteed to make us miserable?

From the time we were small children, nearly all of us experienced the emptiness and pain of conditional love. We saw that people seemed to approve of us—or “love” us—when we were obedient, cooperative, beautiful, industrious, intelligent, witty, and so on, but we also recognized the unmistakable signs of disappointment and irritation when we were disobedient, lazy, and otherwise inconvenient or “bad.”

Although this conditional approval is often temporarily satisfying or even exciting, it’s never truly fulfilling—never produces genuine happiness—and becomes exhausting to constantly earn. The lack of life-giving Real Love is the most common and most serious emotional wound among human beings. People do not have to be beaten or yelled at or sexually abused in order to experience severe psychological injury. The simple lack of Real Love is more than sufficient to cause such pain.

Children are extraordinarily suggestible. Extensive studies have demonstrated beyond question that what children learn at an early age—with an absorption like sponges—forms impressions and judgments that tend to last for the rest of their lives. A child without Real Love is bombarded with an endless series of “I don’t love you” messages that teach them that the world is painful, unpredictable, unsafe, and not to be trusted.

So now we fast forward twenty or thirty or more years from childhood to the adulthood of almost anyone, in this case Tammy. Someone at work or at home—let’s say her partner, Mark—points out a task or behavior that Tammy might need to re-evaluate or modify if she wishes to be happy or more productive. Mark is actually trying to help, but unknown to either party involved, Tammy’s judgment of any event in the present is almost entirely determined by her lifelong judgment that people and circumstances are critical, judgmental, and painful.

As I have explained extensively in several of the Real Love books, events are followed by judgments, then feelings, then reactions, or behaviors. Unfortunately, most judgments are ALREADY PRE-FORMED.

When Mark speaks, therefore, Tammy is ALREADY afraid—using judgments from the past, which are simply wrong—and instead of examining his behavior as it truly is, she LOOKS for evidence that will CONFIRM the judgments she already has of Mark and the world. The interaction is doomed from the beginning, because the past distorts the present. Tammy looks for confirmation of her past judgments and fears, she succeeds, her fear is heightened, and the loop becomes ever stronger—more like chains than a loop.

What can we do? We have to break the chains. We have to learn new judgments. We have to assume that fear is almost always irrational and doesn’t work, and then we can look for new evidence to change the old judgments. We can lay down the fears and embrace the love we find.

PCSD

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