Have your plans for the new year turned on you yet?
It’s March. Your good intentions for the year may have faded away by now.
Is that critical voice in your head yelling at you? Or have you avoided making resolutions for years now because you tell yourself you always fail?
If you have made plans or dreamed dreams, you may have noticed that your excitement turns to fear before your ideas get off the ground.
I can relate.
I do make plans sometimes. I get excited about a project. I get the spark that a new idea brings. I enjoy that roll of intense focus, that energy of creativity. I think of what I could do with this. This energy might be the one that finally makes me feel like I’m up to something!
I’m cautious though. I’ve felt this before. It doesn’t last.
In fact, I’ve been through this many times. I’m waiting for the pain. I’m waiting for the fear, the shut down that I know will occur. I’ve become very cynical about this. I never trust a motivational speaker, even if that speaker is me.
When the fear does come, I feel it in my gut, in my throat, even in my suddenly slumping shoulders. I don’t want to pursue this. I’m fine in my life as I am. No point in doing extra work. I might fail. I can’t deliver. I don’t follow through. I cry. But only a little. I can shut that down without even trying hard. This is when I feel depressed. Writing this, I can feel it now.
First the excitement. Then the fear.
It can’t just be me.
I know people who get things done. They make a plan and see it through. They join the group coaching, pay the big money, do the work, and see the results. They believe that motivational speaker and become an inspiration themselves.
But it’s not just me who can’t do this. It might be you too. It’s a lot of us.
I’m wondering why. Of course, I had to do the research.
I googled “excitement turns to fear” and I get -“ How to turn fear into excitement”.
Not really what I was going for. Useful, but it doesn’t explain to me why we are fighting fear in the first place. In our safe, warm lives full of pretty much everything we need already.
Why feel fear when you want to write a book or start a business?
Take a chance on a new relationship? Terrifying for some of us.
Why do we get scared trying to change our lives for the better?
I’m digging deep into all my resources – books, brain research, spiritual practices, and my own life experience to try to figure this out.
Here’s what I’ve found so far on why this happens to us humans. It’s complicated so I’ll speak from several angles here and you can see what lands for you.
From my inner-mediation teacher:
Fear is a placeholder for many other emotions. Fear comes first and stops us in our tracks. It says, don’t go there. Don’t be vulnerable.
What can you do about that?
Don’t run. Feel this in your body. Where is the fear? Greet it. Extend a welcome. See what is sitting with your fear. Other emotions are there. Sadness, hurt, anger, embarrassment. So many subtle emotions are covered over with fear. Greet those too. Let them be gently welcomed. These feeling can tell you what holds you back. These are your tender spots. This is hard work, being with our vulnerable emotions.
The first step to healing is letting yourself notice all that’s in there.
From brain researcher:
Safety first. Did you know there is a spot in your brain whose only job is to decide every moment, is she safe or not safe? Your Amygdalae won’t miss a thing!
Humans have survived because we quickly react to all kinds of danger. You can react so fast you don’t even consciously recognize it.
Excitement threatens to take us to places unknown. Our vulnerable parts aren’t up for that without lots of reassurance. So fear steps in as a protector.
The risks involved in starting a new career or a new relationship, for example, can be met by the same internal reaction as crossing enemy territory. Sadly, our dreams which create excitement also alert the Amygdalae that we are beginning to take risks.
You’re wired for safety! It’s no wonder that you are having trouble moving forward!
From a trauma therapist’s perspective:
Your trauma history, big or small, gets stirred up by anything uncertain or stressful.
Taking a risk to do something new? Definitely stressful.
Trauma complicates lives. To put it simply, trauma effects you in 3 ways:
- Self image – your confidence, your self awareness, your estimate of your own abilities.
- Emotional regulation – how well you can tolerate all kinds of feelings, how well you can soothe or motivate yourself, how clearly you understand feelings when you have them.
- Sense of safety – your thermostat of safety is different than before the trauma. You may be afraid all the time or you may take unnecessary risks. You may not trust yourself to know if you are safe.
From an attachment perspective:
“Fear of life” has been described as the original separation anxiety. (Thoughts Without a Thinker, by Mark Epstien, MD.)
Let me explain my take on this. When we are living life in the status quo, we may be bored but we’re pretty sure who is going to greet us at the end of the day and whether they like us. Even if you’re living with a difficult relationship or two, as least you know what to expect.
But, pursue a new idea, take on a big new challenge? What happens then? Who are you going to become?
You don’t always have these thoughts consciously. You are the proverbial toddler leaving mother to explore the world. Will she be there when you get back? Sometimes she wasn’t. Sometimes she thought you were getting too big for your britches.
Sometimes, deep inside, we fear becoming someone new. We want to know our tribe is still going to be there when we get back. It’s about self differentiation, our separateness and our togetherness. If I step out and become something more, will my people reject me?
How often do you want to try a scary new project, but you don’t want anyone to know you’re doing it?
I hear my clients say, “well, if I fail, I don’t want to deal with people talking”.
But what if you succeed? You will be different than the others then. That’s the real risk.
I hope I’ve convinced you that there are many reasons your excitement turns to fear. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. You’re in good company. Your systems are working.
The next trick is to figure out how to move forward with your plans and dreams
in spite of the fear.
I have plans for that in my next blog. Watch for When Excitement Turns to Fear, Part 2.
In the meantime, if this pegged you, and you want some help working through your own fears and traumas, call today for an appointment.
In my 25 years as a therapist, I have found many ways to help people like you work with your amazing brain, emotions, memories and anxieties to create less fear and more of the life you love.