I read a passage recently that really resonated with me. Loosely translated it reads that, “everyone has some type of post-traumatic stress, but many of us suffer from pre traumatic stress.” What is that? The fear of a fear. We fear something that hasn’t even happened yet and may not ever happen to us.
When you think of all the things you accomplish regularly and how you manage challenges that show up in your life, doesn’t it make you wonder why we have such fears? Think about it: most of the stuff we worry never comes true anyways. I’ll forget. I’ll look stupid. They’ll laugh at me. I won’t know what to do.
I thought back to a former boss’ stories about attending community meetings and nearly being run out-of-town “on a rail.” He was there representing the company we work for and, at that time, we weren’t thought of very highly. He talked of getting into red-faced shouting matches with officials. Now, bear in mind, I never experienced what he went through but, along the way, I picked up on his anxiety .. and carried it with me. I listened to his stories in horror and developed a healthy fear of that happening to me. I developed … a fear of the fear.
After reading that quote earlier this week, it dawned on me that, in my new job, I’m doing a lot of speaking in front of community officials. Guess what? I’m doing just fine. Some talks have been delicate and some have been challenging but all have been professional. There’s been no rails to be found anywhere.
I had no idea, until I read that passage, that I’d developed a fear of the fear. Unwittingly, new experiences have let me through most of it. Yes, I still feel a tug when asked to meet with certain groups, especially if a contentious history is known, but every time I do so, I get a little better and that gives me confidence to step past the fear.
Interesting stuff we do to ourselves.
Have you ever developed a fear of a fear? Do tell.
“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works