This post was originally written by Sara Stahlman.
Each of us has a “Hall of Fears,” things that limit us, that keep us from living our fullest lives.
- For three minutes, write a list of things you are afraid of – mine begins like this, “I’m afraid of heights, of stumbling when walking in front of people, of death, of success, of not living my life fully, of snakes, of tight spaces, of getting cancer, or being sucked out of an airplane at 20,000 feet…”
- Read over your list. Some fears keep us safe. Some just keep us small. Which fears keep you from doing things you really want to do? Circle those.
- Fear is a learned behavior: For each of those circled fears, spend three minutes trying to describe where and how you learned it.
- Then pick one and spend four minutes writing a short children’s story about unlearning that fear: How would you teach a child to not have that fear?
There is a powerful momentum that comes from anger, though it can be destructive as well. For the next month, walk into your anger by recognizing what fear it represents. When you feel angry – the meeting is starting late, the babysitter canceled at the last minute, your partner left dirty dishes in the sink – acknowledge the anger and challenge yourself to uncover the fear underneath it (I’m not taken seriously; I don’t know how to assert myself and people feel they can walk all over me; I haven’t made my needs well known and am afraid I’ll look selfish if I do). Patterns will emerge that will help you identify the fears underlying your anger. In that process, you may learn how to recognize the fears that underlie the anger of others too.
*Adapted from “Life is a Verb” by Patti Digh
Many persons have such a limited knowledge of their emotional life that they tend to lump everything together into anger. But, if you look closely, you might find that behind the anger are more pertinent feelings, such as disappointment, sadness, fear, and so on. When something happens in the present it reminds you of unfinished business in the past and compounds it.