Here’s a theory – simple, profound, and probably true: All of our issues stem from fear! Think about it – abandonment is a terrifying fear of being left, being alone, being detached and unloved. Shame is an irrational fear of not being good enough, of being discovered as the flawed being that you really believe that you are. Anxiety is an overwhelming fear of not being in control. And since fear is such a primal emotion, we will have little control over how it manifests itself! It just makes so much sense!
When we fear something, what do we do? We focus on it. We cannot be fully relaxed as long as the thing we fear is in our periphery. We can be distracted from it for a short while, but ultimately it is constantly on our radar, beckoning and threatening to destroy us. While we are hurrying, worrying, planning, maneuvering, and constantly chewing on the thing we fear, we are not fully experiencing in our lives!
So what are your issues? What are the underlying fears? And where do those fears come from? If we trace it back to its source, we can usually sort of “re-wire” the surface issue to make our responses something more manageable.
Let’s use control as an example. You have a terrifying fear of chaos – of things, people, situations, and emotions (yours and/or other people) being disorderly and out of control. If you trace it back to your childhood, you may find situations where you felt out of control – unexpected angry outbursts by parents or siblings, having to move a lot, not getting your basic needs met (food, clothing, healthcare, etc.), unable to do basic things that other kids could do (ex: having a disability or slow to mature), etc. We learn to “cope” with painful events by controlling what we can. We spend our lives trying to control every single thing around us! And while we get small victories and feel some relief from our anxiety, what we really do is exhaust ourselves! The fear and anxiety never really go away; we just keep them at bay for a short time.
The truth is, we don’t really have control over anything but ourselves. The re-wiring comes from recognizing the underlying fear (What will happen if I don’t control everything around me?) and then forcing ourselves to logically walk through it. “If I don’t have control over everything (the issue), then I will feel out of control (the fear). The fear comes from unexpected angry outbursts I experienced. I coped with that fear by trying to control things. I tried to control his anger by doing everything perfectly. Although I tried as hard as I could, it still couldn’t control it. I recognize that I am now trying to control the emotions of the people around me to calm my fear. I accept that I have no control over anyone’s emotions except for mine. I am an adult and if someone around me has an irrational angry outburst, I can get away from them. I can control my own emotions by deep breathing and calm self-talk.” (The irrational fear is resolved and they have dealt with any real fear by having a plan of action!)
Get the idea? Deal with the fear and you deal with the issue!