Over the years I’ve learned to run toward foreboding feelings when I identify them.
I’ve consistently found value in noting and confronting things that scare me; small things, substantial things, dangerous things at times.
Much of this value is derived from the process of picking at the aversion or worry and slowly coming to know it: understanding its origins, what it is I find so disconcerting about it, and in some cases finding I’m actually afraid of something else and have for whatever reason misattributed my misgivings.
It’s natural to deny and deflect and to thus never get an accurate lock on things that cause us any amount of disconcertion. It’s easier to just decide our fears are a law of nature and move on.
Allowing ourselves to say, “Oh yeah, this freaks me out,” is fundamental to moving forward, though. Without such an admission it’s difficult to get an accurate sense of what needs to be scrutinized.
After this initial acknowledgment is accomplished, I find it’s useful to carve the fear-inciting concept into pieces to determine which of its components are causing psychological strain.
From there, I almost always need to dig around a bit because what initially seems to be the issue often isn’t: it’s a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of the real concern.
After traveling full-time for the better part of a decade, for instance, the idea of settling in one place for more than four months terrified me and I wasn’t sure why.
A long period of introspection led to the realization that I was afraid I might not recognize myself in a context not predicated on regular travel.
I was afraid I would be a flattened-out person without anything to offer the world, and I would be incapable of happiness and fulfillment and would lack creative drive if I wasn’t tapped into the inescapable novelty of the road.
Superficially, though, before I started digging, I thought I was afraid of owning a car, buying furniture, and receiving mail every day.
These more-visible aspects of a staying-put lifestyle circled the core issue, but they were not, themselves, the issue.
It took months of thinking and assessing before I was able to pinpoint and affirm my actual fears, and the better part of a year before I was able to reassure myself I was capable of not just being happy, but also remaining creative and productive and fulfilled while not in a permanent state of transit.
It can feel like weakness to flag and follow up on these sorts of internal barriers and conflicts, and the process of tracing and unraveling and, with time, plucking apart the knotted threads of self-imposed inhibitions is seldom pleasant or straightforward.
But it tends to be worth the energy and effort invested because it allows us to perceive ourselves with greater accuracy and clear away piles of psychological detritus before they accumulate into cumbersome, seemingly insurmountable barriers.