My biggest issue with Halloween is the FEAR it promotes. And in the context of my work writing, speaking, and treating anxiety, this is an important topic to me. This “celebration day of fun” reminds me of how FEAR can easily slip into our culture and promote unhealthy emotional functioning. Am I over-interpreting an innocent joyous day? Some might think so.
Taking this line of thinking to a deeper level beyond pumpkins and “too much candy,” I believe that each of us struggle with “shadows” or dark places in our life that work at the intrapsychic depth of who we are. Some of these intrapsychic aspects are fears, deeply buried within our soul. A key aspect of our soul is our will, and this comes into play when we do things that reinforce these intrapsychic fears. I am a huge believer in the Spirit and for a life of joy, transcendence, and freedom, the Spirit needs to guide the soul. But, for the purposes of this article (which is psychological, rather than spiritual), I am going to name the key fears that affect our lives and can bury us if we let it. Like I said, even if you believe that I am over-analyzing Halloween, I believe that Halloween is a reminder of a promotion of FEAR. This has reminded me of the reality of the FEARS in our lives. This can also serve as a reminder that we have the ability to face our fears and reinforce a mindset of overcoming our fears. Let’s take a look at some of the FEARS that we struggle with in life. I call these FEARS the False Four. These FEARS are false in that they primarily rely on erroneous thinking in our mindset, and their defeat requires each of us to speak over them with truth and love. The first truth that leads to our victory is proclaiming that I am unafraid of FEAR in my life.
1. The Fear of Failure
I just recently made a podcast on the Failure Reflection Exercise. Check it out at Itunes or to the right of this article. One of the best ways to overcome fear of failure is by reflecting on your failure history.
I know, in my life, I have failed often. I failed during an important spelling contest when I was young. I failed trying out for my eighth grade baseball team. My dream of playing college basketball was crushed with two failures. I failed in two personal relationships in college. I failed at different aspects of my career. I laugh talking to colleagues about a study I worked on for two years and received rejections from four different journals with the fourth journal editor writing me that this "paper has nothing to offer to the field." That my friends, is a beautiful failure. If you are going to fail, go down like that my friends! We give something our best and we don’t give up.
More recently, I have experienced significant personal failure. I have realized that as I long as I breathe, the failures will continue to come. In this social media obsessed digital world where it's all about putting our best foot forward, this failure exercise will cleanse you from the personal marketing gunk that can stick on you. Let's get real! We all fail. One of the best gifts we can give our children is an honest reflection on our failures and an explanation of how we didn't let that stop us from getting back up and moving forward.
Speak out loud to failure. Speak life, goodness, and truth into your situation. Say, “I am unafraid of failure.” Failure teaches me. Failure helps me to grow. Failure helps me to never give up.
2. The Fear of Change
Some people love change. As one of my favorite fathers of the faith Steve Hill once said, “Live unsettled. Don’t sink too deep into the soil of this earth. Keep your head up. Keep your feet moving. Stay alert.” Steve would say how he loved change and how he hates it when life is cookie cutter predictable.
Others dislike change. I’m one of those. Yet, my life shows a ton of change despite this dislike. I’ve lived in 6 states. I’ve traveled to all 50. I went to four different colleges and graduate schools. I’ve trained mental health professionals on overcoming fear and anxiety in over 100 cities. Change has been endless for me. I think many of us have mixed feelings on this topic. We all want stability but are open to change to a degree.
Optimistically, most look back and are glad things changed. It is during the change and most often before the change when things seem anxiety producing. This is where the “anticipatory anxiety” comes into play. There are a couple of things you can do when you anticipate change is coming or needs to happen. First, identify the reasons why change will be worth it. Second, breaking the change into smaller steps can make it more tolerable. This ACTION PLAN can reduce some of the overwhelm that sometimes comes with changes you make or changes forced upon you.
3. Fear of Uncertainty
One of the things we work on with individuals with anxiety is intolerance of uncertainty. One of the solutions is to increase their tolerance of uncertainty. This is something we all deal with in our lives. Somehow, we get wrapped up in this life that we forget that our soul (and Spirits) can be free of the circumstances of our life. Sure, we should care about the little things. We don’t want to go through life not caring, showing indifference, and being disengaged. Some of the best people we know are those who care about the small things. We all know them – the door keepers at the church, the booster parents taking time to plan out those huge meals for the Friday night football team, and the volunteers at nursing facilities.
At the same time, it is easy to get worked up over everything “going right” that we want to be certain that everything will go as planned. If we walk this trail, what can happen is that we can build a desire that everything is certain. We soon want certainty for everything. This leads to intolerance of uncertainty. This is the foundation of fear. The answer is tolerating uncertainty.
4. Fear of Others Assumptions, Accusations, and Judgments
Most people worry about others’ thoughts of them. The truth is –most people aren’t thinking about you. In fact, nobody is. They are more concerned about themselves. The funny thing about living in a selfish world is that people are selfishly thinking about themselves, not you.
Let’s identify what is really going on. You are insecure. An insecure identity is one who operates out of fear, guilt and shame. A secure identity is a person who know who they are and they operate out of love and fearlessness. Fear doesn’t control them.
Remember, others’ opinions only matter if you give it time in your thought record. If you notice you are giving others’ opinions too much time, write these thoughts on a piece of paper and burn it up. Or write these thoughts down and put it to one of your favorite pieces of music that you listened to growing up. Try placing those negative thoughts in Michael Jackson’s Beat It song and notice how how your mood changes as you defuse the content from your consciousness.
The bottom line is that the answer to fear of others’ assumptions, accusations, and judgments is true connecting in relationships. The way to truly connect in relationship is through vulnerability. When two people are vulnerable in that window of communication, true connection happens. When we truly connect, fear of others’ assumptions, accusations, and judgments melt away. In its place, is vulnerable connecting which leads to a true relationship.
OK, Listen, Halloween is not our enemy. It has no power over us. In some ways, it is silly. But FEAR and anything tied to FEAR is our enemy. We need to distinguish FEARS in our lives and give FEAR no place. Let’s value failure and change. Let’s be peaceful about things that are uncertain in our lives, and let’s be vulnerable with each other!