Analyze Fear

Fear. It's buried and it's old and it's kinda nasty and it's pretty familiar. If you've followed the advice in each of the preceding sections, you may have bumped up against a really uncomfortable feeling. Its names range from the blue meanies to the boogeyman, our demons, our dragons, our baggage. It's that part of ourselves that we shield like crazy because we hate it about ourselves, and it makes us really, really unhappy and scared. It may be that we fear we'll be abandoned or that we're too fat or too stupid or too smart or too tall or too short or too thin or too fat. Whatever our fear, it's likely gotten moldy because it's been around for so long. It's often left over from childhood or adolescence and pops up at the most inconvenient times — like when we're trying to let down our guard and feel close to someone and let them know the true us so we can feel loved.

It is impossible to be completely without fear, and that's okay: Fear warns us. After all, it would be stupid to cross the street without looking or do a header off the Empire State Building. But we can look at our fear, our assumptions, our anger, our patterns and decide to try to do something different. The moment we do that, our fear no longer controls us. We're in charge of our own life, and paradoxically, these moments are most likely to happen when we let another person into our intimate life.

There's a great scene in the movie The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro, who play Spanish missionaries who have come to South America to convert the natives. De Niro has brought elaborate carved chairs and tables and silver chalices and armor and all the things that he felt were necessary, but in the New World, even though he'd tied this stuff up so that he could carry it easily, the slope is too slippery, and it's raining, and he has to make a decision. Are these things from another life important enough to him to hold on to, even though he won't be able to keep going and may even have to go back to where he was, or can he cut them loose and reach his goal? Often in a relationship, you're given that opportunity to see your fear, see the things you feel you need to make you safe and comfortable and realize that they're just not working. At that point, you can decide to let them go or to park them for a while to see whether things work better without them.

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