04 March 2012

How I Misunderstood Fear

My dad is currently studying psychology and told me months ago that fear is the root of many negative feelings and behaviors.  I didn't really buy into that idea until now. 

I've always thought of fear as a feeling of being scared.  And I mean scared in the way you feel when you watch a horror movie.  Suspense, panic, anxiety.  This is true.  This is fear.  And I've felt afraid in this way many times as I have worried about Pete.  I have felt this deep, lung-tightening, muscle contracting fear.   What does the future hold for my marriage/family? What if his addiction leads to infidelity? What if this goes on forever?

But the kind of fear I never realized I was feeling is the fear that Danny taught me is the opposite of faith.  Danny acquainted me with the idea [perhaps not new to you, but new to me] that God teaches that peace and joy come from faith, hope and love. Selfishness and misery come from fear, doubt and enmity.  This is how he described it to me.

"The more I rid myself of self doubts, fears, and anger...the easier it became to express true faith, hope and love. And when those feelings are expressed in their deepest sense, with the total abandonment of their opposites....suddenly you feel better."

After hearing Elder Busche's words over and over I kept getting hung up on his line  "Avoid any fear like your worst enemy." I wondered what he meant.  I felt like it would be extremely difficult to avoid fear, the way I understood fear, as the body's fight or flight physiological response. [Although I think that is possible, as I mentioned with regard to the intense fears I had about Pete's addiction.] But now I see a different fear that he wants me to avoid. 
Self-doubts, anger, jealousy, cruelty all come from fear.  They aren't an all-consuming, foreboding fear, they are a subtle and nagging fear.  Here are some of my fears, and how they cause me unhappiness.
  * Fear of being inadequate.  There is so much expected of me, how can I possibly measure up? -My fear of not being the mother/wife/friend I should be causes me to act defensive, irritated and helpless toward people I love.
* Fear of being unappreciated.  This is my insatiable apetite for attention, pity, admiration. I pridefully desire credit and accolades for my so-called merits.  -To protect myself from the hurt of being a nobody I put on pretenses and act pompous and independent, meanwhile in my mind I am wondering "Is anyone noticing me?!"

* Fear of what others think of me.  I long to be thought of as intelligent, funny, attractive and kind.  -But fear of not being those things causes me to compare myself with others and either feel superior as I observe their faults or inferior as I fail to measure up to their strengths.  (This is a miserable way to live.)

   * Fear of rejection.  I can't emotionally handle it when someone disagrees with me, someone doesn't want to be my friend, when someone declines my requests, or when my husband views pornography. - I build walls.  I resent those who disagree with me or show dislike toward me.  I alienate myself and sabotage relationships.

These fears demonstrate a general lack of faith, hope and love.  At best they are unproductive, and at worst they are destructive.  My fear of the future regarding Pete's addiction was a fear that was easy to identify.  It was all-consuming and I simply could not have faith and happiness while I allowed it to live inside me.  But these fears are much harder for me to identify, and therefore almost harder to abandon.  I'm still working on that. 


  1. Jane, I really do love this, and love how much more aware you have become of the varying kinds of fears in our lives. I too once felt ignorant of the many ways it creeps into your life and thoughts and attitude about yourself and others.

    When faced with my own difficult circumstances in my first marriage, I was forced to confront all sorts of fears that I never really considered before (I think you do a great job listing some of the different underlying sources by the way).

    I came to understand that so many of my wife's poor decisions came from a place of fear and self doubt and anger (and not from a willful desire to hurt me)...that gave me greater compassion and patience. As I realized how damaging her own fears were, I began to be more aware of my fears, and how they had contributed to actions and words and responses that were less than productive and helpful to me and my marriage.

    I set out to find a better way...and I knew that if I had any hope of saving my marriage (or if that proved impossible at least myself), then I needed to get rid of fear in every form.

    My marriage did not survive, but I learned the greatest lesson yet. In the absence of fears and doubts and anger at myself, the situation, or God...I found myself being transformed. Nothing changed circumstantially...in fact for a while it just kept getting worse. And yet I found my ability to experience peace and comfort and hope and joy and Unity was directly correlated to the efforts and success I had at casting aside fear, doubt, and anger...and embracing The Way of Christ, which is faith, hope and love.

    Thank you Jane for posting your own journey in this regard, I am excited for what you will learn on this path...I know you will be an even better wife and mother and friend, and your ability to connect with God will increase, and you ability to uplift all others in need will grow.

    Embrace this opportunity to truly understand the very heart and mind of God (which is one of faith, hope and love). You are learning what it means to truly adopt the identity of a Daughter of the Most High God.

  2. I think these fears are so (painfully) common - perhaps espeically in members of the church? As someone who suffers in these fears - how do I teach my kids to be confident in all of the opposite ways?