Perception and Fear: The Deadly Duo


Dr. Phil likes to say, “perception is reality.”  What he means is, whatever a person perceives is his reality.  The problem is, where does that perception come from?  It is only human that many of our perceptions are rooted in our fears, and that is a recipe for disaster.

I was brought up in the “pull yourself up by your bootstaps” era.  We also did not talk about the elephant in the living room.  Those two things are also bad behaviors.  The elephant in the living room is rooted in the belief that we do not wash our laundry in public, and, we fear what people will think of us.  And there it is.

Ever since I can remember I had this conversation going on in my head as to what people were thinking about me, how I was perceived.  The problem with that sort of thinking is, it is usually wrong.  The thing is, it is impossible to know what any other person is thinking until we ask the question.  In the absence of their answer, we really do not know what they are thinking and it is a disservice to that person to impose our thoughts on them.  It is also foolishly selfish because it assumes they are thinking something about us at all when in all likelihood, they are having no so thoughts.  One of my old, and long running thoughts, was that a person did not like me because they were not talking to me.  I got over that many years ago when I figured out they had not even considered whether or not they liked me or not.  And a funny thing happened, when I discovered most people liked me, it totally overshadowed those who did not.   Usually it is irrelevant what another person thinks.

At the bottom of this like/dislike things were my fears.  For too many years I had allowed my fears to rule my life.  I was afraid of both success and failure, not knowing how to handle either.  What I have discovered is that fear exists only as we allow it, and only in the absence of knowledge and experience.  I think everyone has a fear of rejection but the truth is, everyone experiences rejection at some time in their life, and usually on numerous occasions.  Rejection is never a pleasant thing but it is a part of life.  I have found that simply accepting the concept that rejection is going to happen, and, that it is seldom person, I have a lot easier time with it.

The person who says he does not experience fear is a liar.  Everyone does.  It is a normal and natural part of the human experience of life.  Fear is a defense mechanism that was devised way back when we were mainly hunter-gatherers and living in caves.  Every fear I have today exists because I lack the information necessary to bring about comfort.  One of the best cures for my fears has been talking about them, even at the risk of serious embarrassment to myself.  By sharing my fears with someone else, I have found that almost without exception I have the very same fears as many many other people.  There is a lot of comfort to be found in that.  But also, these same people give me ideas, and sometimes answers, to overcoming the fear, regardless of what it is.

I was once told that fear is really an acronym that means Face Everything And Recover.  That is, if I face my fears head-on, if I do not avoid them, I can get past them with a lot less pain that I would otherwise experience.  I identify what my fear is, what is behind it, and what I need to do to recover from its negative effect on me.

When I allow perception and fear to occupy too much space in my head, I am in trouble.  Perception is fine as a starting point, but I always need to either verify or disprove my perception with the facts, the truth.  The truth is not always fun or pretty, but it beats the hell out of unfounded perceptions.  Fear also has a place in my life but it cannot either rule or control my life, my actions.  It is my job, on a daily basis, to accept any fear I have as a temporary reality that needs to be replaced by knowledge and a plan to keep moving in a positive direction.

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