Admitting Fear as a First Step to Overcoming It

While driving to the coast recently, I was listening to Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance. Brach is known for encouraging her readers and listeners to face and walk through their fears and problems. It made me think of that night of my first AA meeting where I uttered the magic words for the first time. There was something powerful in stating publicly what I had known for years but refused to accept. I have described that experience as flipping a light switch. There was an immediate shift within me. That got me thinking. Are there other things in my life that I am resisting? Wouldn’t it help to acknowledge those things to someone else?

Imagine if we had a trusted friend, advisor or support group where we could say any of the following:

“Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m an angry person.”

“Hi, my name is Beth, and I’m a perfectionist.”

"Hi, my name is Joe, and I have a crippling fear of disease and death.”

I have struggled for years with an unhealthy fear of death and disease. Until recently, I had not admitted this to anyone. I avoided going to the doctor because I was afraid of what they might find. Much of my alcoholic drinking was an attempt to tamp down and avoid this fear. Last year, I hit my bottom when I had a health scare. I knew it was time to confront the fear head-on. I started by going to a counselor and openly admitting my secret. That was helpful. However, what really made a difference for me was sharing with my wife how crippling this fear was. I found that, when I talked openly and honestly to her about it, it took much of the power out of the fear. This has allowed me now to take further steps to walk through this fear instead of around it. I am now reading a book that explores the Tibetan Book of the Dead and am looking into volunteering as a hospice worker. A year ago, either of these things would have sent me into a full-blown panic attack! I still have moments when something pops into my head that sends me spinning a bit. But I know now not to keep those thoughts to myself or run from them. It’s progress, not perfection, that I am seeking.

Whether you struggle with crippling anger, fear, perfectionism or any negative emotion, I encourage you to share it with someone you can trust. As with 12-step recovery, it’s only the first step, but it is a necessary and powerful step. As they say, resistance is futile.

If you are interested in contributing your own story to the Sidebar, click here. The Sidebar is supported by the stories of our readers, and we appreciate your contributions.