The fear of the fear

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.

Some days I'm the mouse, other days the cat!

Some days I’m the mouse, other days I’m the cat!

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

Categories: Confidence at any age, Faith, fear, Growth, Home, Life, Personal, Relationships, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “The fear of the fear

  1. Have I ever developed a fear of fear? I do know I had to stop listening to talk radio this Winter for some of these reasons. The constant “hype” of negativity was creating within me a permanent “angst”, a low grade fear and unease that was robbing me of peace of mind. I would love to hear you give a presentation. Having read your blog now for several months, I can just picture you up there @ the podium 😉 DM

    • I sure hear you there, DM. Hubbs has the news channel on all the time – whenever sports aren’t on — I routinely come behind him and turn it off. I stopped listening to Talk Radio for the same reasons — It was doom & gloom and desperation and negativity all the time, it seemed. I am content with some music or silence 🙂

      Thank you for the compliment, that’s very kind of you. The presentations I’ve been doing have to do with educating folks on changing technologies — I feel like a teacher and it’s quite fun most days 🙂 MJ

  2. MJ, I just have the feeling that you have the ability to “charm” anyone, and I can’t imagine anyone being contentious with you!
    You’re right, though. about most of the things we fear happening never do. When Marshall was in middle school, I shared with him something my mom told me: “Most of the time, dreading something is worse than the real thing”. He still comments on that today!

    • Thank you, Dianna. The thing is, I go in with a message and leave room for questions, I don’t put up with anyone bullying me (and there have been a few who tried). I lead with a smile and follow with the facts 🙂

      That quote from your Mom is spot on — and so true! MJ

  3. Great post. I have always suffered from pre-event anxiety and still do. As a child my parents never told me if we were going somewhere for fear I’d throw up. Post event trauma is easier for me as I can go into a problem solving mode. Before hand all you can do is tremble! As a side note, public speaking doesn’t traumatize me. I have always done it and as an HR person, sometimes the message wasn’t what the employees wanted to hear. Somehow along the way you learn the tricks. I am sure you are great because you always sound logical.

    • That is some serious anxiety, Kate. I feel bad for that little girl who would get so upset she’d be sick. I wonder what triggered that?

      You are right, being in HR I am sure you had many times that you had to deliver a less than appetizing message. I appreciate your comment on my sounding logical; that is one of my strengths and I use that to my advantage. I cut through the fluff and get to the facts and I try to deliver the message in small sound bytes, not 40 min monologues 🙂

      Cheers! MJ

  4. Yes! I have anxiety which is often a fear of fear. When I’m not anxious I sometimes fear that I will get anxious and lose my calm. It’s strange, but I am getting a handle on it in my old age 🙂 Thank God. xoxo

    • It is worth examining what is at the root of those anxieties. I’ve learned by doing … every time I successfully do what I wasn’t sure I could, it’s like building a brick road of confidence – strong and steady 🙂


  5. I have struggled with the fear of fear many times but that is another one of those things that seems to get better with age. I guess because life ahead seems shorter than it once did, I try hard not to waste my time worrying and fretting as much as I used to. Thanks for reminding me to keep at it 🙂

    • You are right, Bella, we can waste our lives fretting. Not doing it 🙂

      Today I am attending a graduation party filled with mostly strangers; the girl graduating is my work friend’s daughter. I have no issues with walking into a room of 100 strangers, in fact, I’m gonna wear something cute and enjoy myself 🙂 MJ

  6. I like the term “pre-traumatic…” This is a strong and very real factor in some of my thinking. As I think about decisions that impact the future…choice of residence, work…so many of the things I struggle with…I am often paralyzed because I try to see and trouble shoot future issues…before I’ve even committed to the decision! There’s some of that mentality that I can justify…that’s my planning ahead hat…but when I find myself paralyzed…fear of the fear has become debilitating. I’m thinking more in general terms than of a specific fear, like speaking in public, as you address…but I think it’s all part of the same mind game. Good to confront the fear! Glad you’ve overcome! ~ Sheila

    • Again, that phrase really resonated with me, especially since I didn’t realize I’d picked up on his fear. That’s what this author said, that something doesn’t have to happen TO us for us to fear it. Think about 9/11 and how many people developed anxieties after that awful day.

      Just waking up and being able to see it was a real milestone for me … bests to you as you work through all your future decisions. You’re level headed and I know will do just fine, remember that 🙂 MJ

  7. I was just having lunch with a friend who was talking about the fearlessness of her toddler son — he’ll try anything: food, swimming, meeting people, whatever… I said that sense of adventure and courage in the light of new things is one of the best qualities to try and foster.

  8. cooper

    absolutely. put you are right on the money — most of the stuff we worry about never comes to pass. When someone else relates a bad experience I have to remember we are all different and my reaction won’t be the same as the other persons. even in relationship situations – other people won’t react to two different people the same way.

    • You are so right on that, Cooper, and we don’t have to have experienced something to develop a fear of it happening to us. Likewise, there’s nothing to say that we’ll all respond the same anyways! Crazy the stuff we do to ourselves, I’m learning every day 🙂

  9. Wise woman…I just finished a book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Delightful.

  10. You might have a listen to Andy Stanley’s “Why Worry” series. Very thought provoking 🙂
    Here’s a link to Part 1:

  11. Very wise post and comments. My fear was speaking. I had a lisp ( think Barbara Walters) and thought no one would understand me. This fear came from high school classmates who stated I could not be a teacher because I could not talk plain. Not only did I become a teacher, but also a public speaker. The laughter al died a long time ago and I am no longer afraid even if there should be some. I learned to laugh with them!

    • Oh Linda, you are my hero! Way to go — talk about slaying dragons 🙂 Thank you for your comment; you made me grin today!

  12. Oh my gosh, did this hit home! I’ve lived most of my life with a healthy dose of anxiety about anything new and different. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to learn to put myself out there, remind myself that nothing I have to face is going to kill me, and realize that conquering a fear is a HUGE confidence booster.

    Now I’m trying to help my kids learn the same… a little bit earlier than I did.

    • I’ve been following your posts and enjoying you take on new things at work and in your private life; for the record, if you have anxieties they are hard to see 🙂 You’re right, conquering fears leads to a huge boost of confidence and every time we do it we learn what we’re capable of!


  13. How funny to read this post, here and now, waiting for my doctor to come into the room. She had been suggesting a treatment for my Crohn’s disease that frightened me terribly. In the end I got sick enough that I had no choice but to go on the new medicine.

    Today I feel great. So yeah, I was afraid and, while justified because this medicine is serious stuff, well I am glad that I am no longer afraid of this stuff. Unless she says I cannot continue it, that is!

    • Oh … I’m sorry you’re having another bout, that’s dreadful stuff. But – glad to hear the meds are working and I Hope they continue to. Youngest lad has had an 8 month round of illness after illness and Crohns was a possibility, thankfully that’s not it. But still — I hear you and understand how difficult and painful that can be to endure.

      So glad you are feeling better 🙂

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