Everything That Distresses You: The Origin of Fearful Thinking

This is the third in a series of posts called, “Everything That Distresses You.”

The four main issues that cause us needless distress are:

  • Confusion about Desire vs. Attachment – Part 1
  • Limited Self-Concepts – Part 2
  • Not Recognizing the Nature and Origin of Fearful Thinking – Part 3
  • Confusion about Cause and Effect, or Victim Mentality – Part 4

Here we’re taking a look at

3. Not Recognizing the Nature and Origin of Fear-based Thinking

We can start with these insights about fear-based thinking:

Fearful thoughts are a stand-alone energy drain

Fearful thoughts are never helpful, so why do we embrace them? Well, for one thing, we think we need them in order to maintain our critical thinking ability. “There are bad things in the world to be afraid of. You can’t be a fool about it!”

Yes, there are bad things in the world and you don’t want to be a fool about it. But precise discrimination is what you need, not fear.

It’s not only important to understand the origin of fearful thinking, but also to understand what it costs you to engage in it. Fear freezes your brain, clouds your perceptions, and prevents you from coming up with creative solutions for dealing with the bad things that happen. Discrimination supports clear perception, flexibility, cheerful perseverance, and creativity so that you can do your best to meet any challenge.

Fear-based thinking always leads you in the wrong direction.

Fearful thinking is never your friend. Years ago I attended a real estate seminar where the very successful presenter said something that has served me well ever since. Someone asked him how he kept his perspective and sense of direction when things got tough, and even risky. He said, “I’m not sure how I knew this, but I had the certainty that I should always go in the opposite direction from what my fear was telling me.” Wow! Try that on for awhile; it deserves contemplation.

Fearful thoughts are a put-down, not a protection.

Let’s consider the origin of fearful thinking: The hidden message in fearful thoughts is that you are weak and unsupported, and that you will not meet some vague performance standard — and that you will therefore live in a dire, wretched state forever. In every case, working with clients, I have found that these fearful beliefs are projections of mistaken ideas formed in childhood in response to what parents taught or withheld from their children. In varying degrees of intensity we all “learn” to believe that we don’t have a right to make a mistake. As children we are gullible; we tend to think that we have to live to please others, rather than follow our own inner guidance. As children, we easily accept the mistaken belief that “failure” in these areas proves our unworthiness. Clearly, our fear-based thinking is a put-down of ourselves!

Consider this: You have the right to learn from our mistakes without shame, guilt, or fear of others opinions. You are here to live your own life from your own inspirations. You are not here not to perform, to make others happy.

Fear keeps us from acting on what we “know.”

I am imagining you may read this and think, “I know that. already. These ideas are very familiar and simple.” But do you “know” them functionally? Do you act with awareness of your absolute right to present yourself fully and enthusiastically to the world, ready to share your gifts and interests, and your feelings, and to remain open to others? If your answer is a vigorous “Yes!” then you are very fortunate not to be trapped in fear-based thinking.

But if your answer is a hesitant “Yes” — or a “No” — then I invite you to examine your assumptions about the world and your place in it. Examine these assumptions with a sword of discrimination in your hand, ready to cut through the origin of fearful thinking!

Learn about the other main causes of our distress and worry in Part 1 (Design vs. Attachment), Part 2 (Limited Self Concepts), and Part 4 (Confusion about Cause and Effect, or Victim Mentality of this series.