Fears and insecurities have a way of crippling us if we let them. They eat away at our joy, and at our peace, especially when we do not express them openly to resolve them. I will share these tools I have learned during my therapy sessions, just in case it helps someone in the way that it has helped me.
In 2010, I relocated from Texas to Florida and resumed my college education at the Florida International University. My most important anxiety stemmed from the fear of not graduating in a timely manner. As it was, I had already delayed my education a whole semester, to then find out that the degree of Communication I had studied for three years up until that point was not offered at my new school. Needless to say, I imagined that it would take me at least another three years to graduate… I stumbled into my therapist’s office, lamenting that my life was officially over.
As she calmed me down, she explained to me that almost all of our fears stem from trusting the shadows of our past, so much so that we give new life to them again and again when they are triggered. In this case, being under pressure to attain a Bachelor’s degree completely blinded me from any rational thought. Of course, we can think of many other examples of fears that paralyze us: fears of rejection, fears of failing, fears of ending up alone, fear of dying, etc
What was important for me to remember from her directions was that next time I had a fear, I should follow these four easy steps:
- The first thing I needed to do was to determine its validity. She said to write the issue down, adding that if I could not put it into a clear sentence, that I should forget about it altogether; as you can always easily express a fear that makes sense.
- The next step was to write three logical reasons why I should spend time worrying about my fear; in other words, proof that this fear is a reality, or may come to fruition. If I could not produce three good pieces of evidence, then I should automatically remove this fear from my “box of fears” as an illusion, and classify it as a waste of time and energy.
- If I were to have proof that my fear was valid, I should then find at least three steps/solutions, or a plan of action to resolve the problem so that I may stop worrying about it and be at peace. If I came to this very last step, and somehow could not be honest with myself enough to accept the solution that would bring me freedom from my fear, then I should also get rid of that fear. At this point, it would obviously be a situation that I have accepted to live with. She explained that this should be completely fine, as long as I understood that my life is my own responsibility, and that no one else could ever be blamed for leaving me in a situation that is not of my best interest…
- The last step of course, would be following up: keeping myself accountable and resolving the problem using the solutions I had enumerated.
She also added that as human beings, we are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. We are built to withstand trauma, so we cannot allow our fears stop us from enjoying every moment. She said to me, “What would be so bad about a fear becoming a reality? Things will always happen that upset us, and that hurt us. That is just a part of the living experience. You feel hurt, you cry, you do what you have to, dry your tears, and then you smile again as you move on. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re strong. You can take it. You’ll be just fine. Do not be afraid”.
In the case of my degree situation, we determined it was one of the only fears I should spend time focusing on and attempting to resolve. She was kind enough to sit with me, and make a complete review of my past courses. We went through a list of degrees, to find that Sociology closely matched the path I had already started in Texas. After analyzing all degree requirements and matching my completed courses, we determined that I had only about a year left to study out of three years of already completed course work. Needless to say, I was amazed and humbled that my fears could be extinguished by simply taking the time to reflect… A whole month of tears were resolved with less than an hour of rational thought! As expected, I graduated on schedule, and I enjoyed my Sociology degree just the same.