There is an often-quoted Twelve Step principle that I have not paid much attention to….until recently.
Recently, while reading a book my own mentor recommended to me (Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love”) I stumbled across it again (my mentor’s a subtle gal, let me tell you!)
“Acting as if.”
As Marianne explains it, I am starting to understand the importance of this principle for the first time.
For instance, when we see our fear – of socializing, food, intimacy, growing up, being responsible, whatever it is – we can acknowledge that it is there.
We can say to ourselves, “Wow – I learned something new about me today. I never knew I was so scared (of whatever it is).”
What comes next is the critical mass point. Because we then face a fork in the road. Option A – we can then proceed to wallow in the experience of the fear (I am very, very good at wallowing).
Or Option B – we can “act as if” we are not afraid – now, today – and just go and do, say, or become whatever it is we now know we’ve been so afraid of.
This is important, because when we first become aware of our fear, we are not actually becoming aware of our fear, now, in this moment.
Rather, we are becoming aware of the sum total of all the times we have been scared of this situation/person/idea/thing in the past. And the aggregate accumulation of all that fear can be overwhelming.
It is easy to get stuck there.
So we have to lift ourselves up out of it, realizing at long last that the welling up of unreasonable-seeming fear at the slightest sign of whatever it is we are afraid of is not our actual fear response to whatever is occurring in that exact moment, but the accumulation of all the times we have ever felt the same or similar fear in the same or similar situations.
Once we realize this, we don’t have to be so intimidated by the fear we are feeling any more. We are not really so afraid. right. now.
In fact, we are probably pretty much okay, right in this moment now.
Maybe we feel a twinge of fear. But is it manageable? Can we – could we – possibly stay put, cope, move through it, if we knew we were dealing with just the normal anxiety of trying something new in this particular moment, without having to also slog through the mountain of fear that in the past has insisted on tagging along?
I have been trying it lately. Acting as if I can do those things, talk to those people, try those things, that I have always told myself I absolutely.could.not.do.
So far, so good.
Today’s Takeaway: Where in your life have you been allowing an uprising of unreasonable-seeming fear, anger, grief, or other emotion derail your best efforts to move forward time and time again? The next time you have this experience, ask yourself this one simple question, “Is my fear of the ‘right now’, or of this moment PLUS all of the remembered times in my life when I have ever felt like this before?” If your fear shows itself as an accumulation of fear rather than a singular event, consider the fact that you survived all of those instances, you are truly okay right now, it is normal to have a certain amount of anxiety when trying something new, and it may be time to “act as if” and just go for it!
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Last reviewed: 12 May 2011