2-7: Naming your fears

It’s time for a ghost story.

When I was 16, I took a tour of the tunnels underneath Edinburgh, Scotland. Hundreds of souls perished in there some 300 years prior, when they sought refuge from a city fire – and got baked to death.

The guide took us to a room beyond which was an unlit tunnel. He said they used to take people in there, until several guests got attacked. So they stopped bringing people into that room.

When the group moved on, I stayed behind to peer into that tunnel.

Image result for tunnels under edinburgh

I didn’t have the guts to go in. But I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to see a ghost. But I wasn’t willing to do what it took.

When I finally turned to leave, I felt a cold breeze cross behind me.

I never turned to look.

Did I encounter a ghost? I don’t think so. But I’ll never know, because I never turned to look. And that’s the metaphor that matters here – if you neglect to examine a situation out of fear, you won’t have any control over it, but it will have control over you.

Everybody has ghosts

I won’t discount that some people have actual ghosts hiding their apple-peelers in the lingerie drawer, but I’m talking about the ones that follow us everywhere, and we refuse to confront them.

If only it were as easy to fix them as to name them.

But it is necessary. And hard. For example, I once spent seven months unemployed before I admitted I didn’t have the skills to get my dream job. I hated to admit that I had discarded years in this comfortable job that I hated.

And, like most things, it was completely my own fault.

But also like most things, it didn’t really look that scary once I wrote down the gaps and imagined the ways I could bridge them.

You can plot a ghost’s movements

Fear and anxiety aren’t mere friends. They’re the ghost and the darkness. They work together. When the ghost isn’t even around, the darkness makes you think it is.

Given anxiety is half of CPPS, it must be defeated. And it’s amazing how if you name the ghost, the darkness almost doesn’t exist. When something has a name, it can be controlled. In psychology, that’s called “labelling.”

It’s also a recurring element in ancient mythology. Evil entities could be commanded if you knew their secret name. While I don’t recommend dabbling in the dark arts, the idea is the same.

YOUR MISSION

Get out your journal. Start a little table. Keep it simple.  

FearOriginSolution
That I’m too arrogant and/or stupid to make it as a decent writer.Knowing I haven’t published anything of note since college.Write every day.Join or start a peer review group. Get published somewhere.
That I’ll be stuck in a low-level corporate job for eternity – a low-level hell of political parasites who do not reward creativity or performanceNine years in a corporate, unimaginative job. Develop high-paying skills.Start personal business.Fill the gaps to do work for which I am best suited.
That I will run out of money and not be able to provide for my wife and kidsLow savings and low-yield skills; the unpredictable nature of job searching and traditional sources of income.Same solution as above – get skills, and work hard!

Pretty ugly, right? All fears are. But as you write out yours, you’ll observe a few patterns:

  1. You’re hardly alone in these fears
  2. They’re not as big when they’re written down
  3. It’s a whole lot easier to communicate them now

A final note:

You must be radically open and transparent – at least with yourself. You can grow to be so with others later.

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