The power of fear never ceases to amaze me. When I initially entered the fear forest after my first panic attack at age 21 (three months before graduating from college), I prostrated myself at fear’s feet. I handed over my thought processes and became a complete victim to whatever fear told me was true. For several years, most of this occurred unconsciously as I hadn’t found my way to the right support. Until I learned how to challenge fear’s arguments, I was a helpless pawn under its rule, a victim in a dark forest. It was, in short, misery.
Eventually, gratefully, I found my way to the couch of a brilliant and compassionate psychotherapist. He was the first to say things like, “You’re a victim to your feelings. They rule your life” Huh? Of course I listened to my feelings. They had been my guideposts my entire life, the clues by which I made my decisions. It took me months to assimilate the concept that feelings are just feelings and not necessarily the truth. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t listen to our feelings and attend to them daily (if not hourly). But I had not comprehended the difference between feelings that were created by my thoughts which then created massive amounts of anxiety and feelings that were a response to the natural rhythm of life.
The concept didn’t really take hold until I met the man who would become my husband. After the initial free-ride of relationship bliss wore off and fear grabbed me in a stronghold of epic proportions (yes, everyone who finds their way to me thinks that their relationship anxiety is manifesting as a worse-case scenario, but I promise you I’ve been there), I was dragged into the underworld and forced to examine the level to which I handed fear my power. When fear said, “You don’t really love him,” I believed it. When fear said, “He’s just going to engulf you and steal your life force,” I believed it. When the critical part of me went into overdrive and picked him to shreds, I did nothing to stop it. Just a few months after we started dating, our tender relationship was hanging on by a thread. We even broke up (for 24 hours), but something in me couldn’t let him go. Some part of me knew that he was everything I had ever wanted in a partner, and if the relationship was going to last, I was going to have to fight.