Consider this: what does FEAR stand for? False Evidence Appearing Real
I recently took a plane flight. I love flying! Looking down at the earth below has always been an exciting experience for me. What is not so exciting is checking in, navigating the airport and crowds, all the noise. There is much going on in an airport and for anyone it could lead to sensory overload! It does for me. As is my fashion, I make pre-arrangements to protect myself from what I know will be a difficult period for me to pass but it is momentary and I do try to keep that in mind most of all. What I do remember is that this anxiety I experience is really just a brief touch of fear and that I will endure, I will enjoy the ride, I will survive the crowds, the noise, the strangers. The FEAR.
I learned early in therapy that one of the hallmarks of a victim is their belief in FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. When I heard that acronym used the first time it hit home for me; I let what I believe will overwhelm me, overwhelm me before I even enter a situation! All because my mind is telling me that crowds are pushy and don’t pay attention and aren’t very nice with which to deal. I believe that all the distractions around me will get to me; the noise from this establishments, people conversing on their phones, the beeps and technological noise of today’s world, and sadly, an unrealistic fear that I for some reason won’t make it through TSA – that I’ve done something wrong when logically I know I have done nothing wrong and there is no reason for anyone to take notice of me. Yes, ridiculous, but only when applied to this situation.
Fear can be stifling only because it leads us to be afraid of something we have not yet, often, experienced. My job today is to figure out how – if I no longer care to live in the negativity that is fear – do I escape the false evidence appearing real?
For me, the only escape from fear is to live in the reality of today, accepting life on life’s terms and moving forward despite – in spite of? – the fear I may hold. I do not have to let the fear control me. I need to accept that it is there but I do not need to live in it. Living in reality means doing that which is necessary to “survive” the airport experience so that I can fully enjoy the “vacation” experience!
Truth be told, the biggest fear I lived with was that people would not accept me, would think less of me, if they knew of my bipolar or brain tumor. There are stereotypes attached to those labels that I try my best to live outside of each day! I can honestly testify that having recently begun the process of no longer denying my disabilities, the “false evidence” of what I feared would happen when others found out has proven to be the exact opposite of what I’d dreamed up in mind own mind. I have found loving acceptance and not the bum-rush to the door to get away as fast as anyone could from me! Grateful doesn’t begin to express the feeling of freedom and joy this knowledge gives me.
The thing I find most sad about fear is that fear in itself can disable. It can grab ahold of a heart and clench it so tight that a person is unable to move forward to escape the fear. It can prevent someone from fully living their life. Something as simple as an airport and the brief time one spends in an airport could have prevented me from enjoying a beautiful wedding but more importantly, spending time with my new family and having a great time doing so! The thought that I could have allowed my fear to rule and deny me a wonderful experience drives me to continue to place one foot in front of the other so that I do not stifle, so that fear does not make the decisions. I do.
Have you had a time of fear in your life? Can you remember a time when you allowed false evidence to appear real for you? What did you do to overcome it? How did you step away from the fear and continue moving forward? We all have our stories, it’s when we share them that they lose their power over us.