One of the most common reasons people resist making changes in their lives is that strong emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger—FEAR. Fear can be one of two things:
- False Expectations Appearing Real (meaning irrational fear that has no foundation.)
- Fear can be based on reasonable thoughts that you really are in danger.
How does fear interfere with your ability to implement change? It can inhibit logical thinking and paralyze you, thus taking away your ability to make good choices. When you perceive threat, your brain is hardwired to “help” you by taking you to fight, flight, or freeze mode. This is an initial reaction that is supposed to be temporary to help you escape from immediate danger. However, if you remain in fight, flight, or freeze mode for prolonged periods of time, you are inhibited in your ability to think rationally, make good decisions, and live according to your integrity. You are more likely to react emotionally, rather than respond reasonably and responsibly.
Overcome Fear with Courage
So, how do you overcome fear and stop it from taking charge over you and your ability to make necessary changes in your life? You have courage! Courage is the mental and/or moral strength to venture, persevere, or withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Note: courage is NOT the absence of fear. It is the mental or moral strength you receive when you are convicted that your choices are more important than even the fear itself. How do you get the courage to overcome your fear? There are three basic steps:
- Name your fears.
Let’s say you have decided that you can no longer live in your marital relationship the way it is now. You have established what absolutely has to change in the relationship, you know what boundaries you will set with your spouse, and you have clearly defined what consequences you will implement if your spouse chooses not to respect the boundaries you have set. You think that your spouse will probably have some kind of negative reaction to your disclosure about what has to change. Name the fears you have about your spouse’s reactions. Write them down. Also name and write down the fears you have if you keep the relationship the way it is now. Identify if your fears are rational or irrational.
- Reprogram your brain with different thoughts.
If your fears are irrational (you immediately catastrophize the situation with no real evidence that what you fear is what will happen,) then reject the fear. Tell yourself that you cannot know the consequences right now, but you will be able to handle whatever comes. Reprogram your brain with different self-talk.If you have reasonable evidence that, based on past abusive behaviors, your spouse will retaliate against you, then believe that you will be able to handle it. Reject the fear that your life will be ruined and nothing will be ok. Compare the known unacceptable condition of the relationship with the hope for a better relationship and life.
- Rebuild your courage by taking action.
Taking action means making sure you have a plan for if the worst of your fears come true. By doing this, you build confidence that if your life gets disrupted, you know how to handle it. Taking action also means gathering a community so that you are not alone. You build a support system of people. You reach out to God and ask Him for His care and guidance. You look to community resources to help you in an emergency. You work with a counselor to help you build courage.
Live life with courage!
Fear is a common emotion that comes with the thought of making real changes in life. It can be destructive and paralyzing. It interferes with rational thinking. It keeps us prisoners of abuse. But it can be tamed and kept in check. Courage leads us to change, despite the fear. It comes when we are convicted that the change we need is bigger than the fear we have. We have but one life to live—consider going through it in courage!
If you feel paralyzed by fear or know a big decision that you need to make, but are hesitant to make it because you’re scared of what could happen, we can help! The Marriage Recovery Center has worked with many people to name and process through their fears and create a plan for moving forward. We would love to walk through that with you, too! Please contact our Client Care Team for more information or to get started with one of our therapists or coaches.