The Bitch Slap: On Fear

bitch slap on fear

image via CreativeCommons.org

This morning, I’m off on a jet plane to San Francisco for a last-minute pitch with my friend and colleague, Merredith. As I zipped over to drop the dogs off for a day of doggie fun and a night of boarding, I poured my car into the glowing pink horizon and…started to cry.

I finally realized something I’ve been afraid of (and no – I’m not sharing…some things are mine). As I hurriedly wiped the tears away in anticipation of arriving at what we call The Puppy Place (aka Barkly Manor), the sting from my psyche’s little Bitch Slap remained.

What scares the everloving daylights out of you?

Fear’s a huge motivator, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it propels us into action. Others (MOST others), it paralyzes us. Maybe it’s disguising itself in your life, because it’s a clever bastard designed for survival. A shape-changer of X-Men proportions and chameleons ain’t got nutin’ on its ability to morph and blend in with your life’s canvas.

Is it anger? You’re pissed about your job. The way a friend or lover treated you.

Is it depression? Doing nothing is easier than doing anything. With anyone. Ever.

Is it money? Not having enough, spending too much, afraid of what your friends/colleagues/kids will think about the gift you can afford versus the one you want to give.

Is it love? Yes, love can cause fear. Fear of disappointing or hurting someone you love. Pervasive. Powerful.

Is it loss? Tired of losing. The hurt. Pain. When will you stop crying? You never want to feel this way again.

It it Analysis Paralysis? You’re not done thinking because you’re afraid to make the wrong decision. Maybe there’s something you haven’t thought about! YES! There must be something!

Fear is a symptom. How dedicated are you to uncovering the cause?

Truth creeps in and as humans, we’re pretty fucking efficient at burying the truth when we catch a whiff of it. Don’t believe me? Ask your gut.

Your gut is as honest as it gets. It never tells you what you want to hear. It tells the truth – what you need to hear. The bitch of it is, we’re not great listeners and would rather tune into MEFM (that’s ME, a very popular FM radio station, owned by the same broadcast conglomerate as WIIFM, What’s In It For Me FM).

We do it (myself included) all day long. We even tell ourselves out loud what we SHOULD be doing:

I should end things. This doesn’t feel good.

I should find a new job.

I should tell him I love him.

I shouldn’t buy this.

I should save money.

I should get my taxes done.

The minute we put “should” into the mix, we’re already treating ourselves like assholes. Because that means you’re not going to do it. Period. We’re experts at seeing the truth long before we ever do anything about it. Our guts are as old as we are, yet we treat them like a petulant six-year-old and think they couldn’t possibly know anything about Being An Adult.

That’s bullshit and you need to stop it right now (and yes, I’ll be in line with you for the slapping).

The fear revealed in my car ride this morning…I don’t quite know what to do with it yet. Seeing it for what it is, though, out from under the mask of love and anger its been wearing – well, that’s a step. It’s the time of year where fear is pervasive. What are you going to do? While a certain dose of fear is healthy, isn’t it time to give yourself a gift this holiday season and stop using it (albeit, unwittingly) as an excuse? It’s a symptom. You owe it to yourself to discover the cause. Doctors all to frequently treat symptoms and leave people living with the cause for years. You have the option, and I’m not saying it’s easy. But the cause of your fear is ready and waiting, and a Bitch Slap all by itself.

Brace for impact. You’ve been slapped.

44 comments
Sandi
Sandi

My sis and I have a phrase we like to say: "Don't should all over me." Heard "should" too many times growing up. Love this one, Erika. I needed it. Thanks for the BS (bitch slap). 

Missy
Missy

As my meditation teacher says: feeling your fear, and facing its impact on your life, is extremely painful. Just not as painful as all the things you miss out on by steering around your fear all the time, without even knowing it. He's right. And sometimes I think, Seriously? Those are the two choices? Who made up this being human thing, anyway?? It's not for sissies, that's for sure.

TheDudeDean
TheDudeDean

This post reminded me of Donnie Darko...

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yes...I have yet to find a good detergent that completely gets shoulds out in the wash.

The Redhead
The Redhead

My pleasure to deliver. They will continue until the asshattery ceases!

Ninfasdomondego
Ninfasdomondego

Odd that no one mentioned Fear's BFF: Anger. We instinctively hate -- and want to hurt -- what we fear. Thus if not very careful and aware, we can easily come to hate ourselves for our weak attempts, lazy avoidance, or our lack of clarity. Acknowledge it, love it, move forward.

Brian Watkins
Brian Watkins

When you mentioned when we put "should" into things I laughed, thinking of all the times I've started a sentence that way. You're absolutely right—we basically decide then and there we're probably not going to do anything. "We should get together some time." "I should really call him one of these days." "I should really go to the gym soon." All crap, and big surprise...none happen. Even saying "I should go grocery shopping," which I know I have to do, takes on a more laborious feeling. Great post, Erika. We need to call ourselves out on our own BS sometimes!

JosephRatliff
JosephRatliff

Fear is your admission ticket to whatever you want to accomplish outside of the norm. If you don't pay the admission, you don't get in.

Pop
Pop

As a dad of 2 girls, know what I'm afraid of? Boys. Horny, horny boys. But have no fear! Monasteries are here! :-P That or the NRA. But seriously, very good one, Erika, and timely too, what with 2011 lurking right around the corner.

Valery
Valery

If there's one thing to fear its the "Shoulders" - those who 'should' all over you. The worst offender is your own Inner Critic - and she's a babe to be reckoned with. Muster up your Moxie - dive right into your fear to see it for what it really is, and what it isn't. Fear melts away in the sunshine. Then stay the fuck away from whatever serves to shape-shift you into something you're not.

kkh-m
kkh-m

I needed this slap today. Thanks!

Amy Oscar
Amy Oscar

I love fear. It tells me something important has come to call. (And of course, I don't LOVE fear - fear feels awful, but I love when I notice that Im afraid. Cuz that's the moment when I have a choice - I can take my power back when I realize I'm afraid... and that all the BS excuses I've come up with because of the fear are just that, BS.

KelleyP
KelleyP

I *love* this post Erika! Fear is awesome: it kicks your ass, it makes you feel alive, it tells you you're doing something bigger than usual, it gets your heart pumping, it tells you when to take a break, it does lots of things! Your slap is spot on: figure out what's really going on. For me, it helps to tell others, to let go of looking good and being right and really let someone close to me hear the truth of what's going on in my life and not the big story I've been giving it (just the facts ma'am). When I'm not telling others, I am allowing my fear story to become a huge hairball in my mind, one I definitely can't digest, and it's getting bigger and bigger, becoming an enormous mess by the time I barf it up (can I get a hell's-yeah cat owners?!). However, if at the sign of the first tickling cough, I can just get it out, it's a much easier mess to clean up. And usually fear is something that I am considering messy, whether a nervous mess at a meeting, an apologetic mess in a mix-up with a friend, a sad mess when someone is sick or dying, or a disappointing mess with my husband or kids. There is nothing wrong with fear. It is imperative to listen to it, examine it, and choose something to do about it. What I find ironic is the physical sensations of fear don't mean anything...they are left over from our cave-people ancestors. That our pulse should pound upon entering a job interview is left over from when we'd face a saber-toothed tiger in the jungle. I'm thankful that my ancestress was unstoppable whenever she'd feel fear. Safe travels, from one redhead to another. -KP

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, the upside to that is I'll bet you run better than any of us ;-)

Zoe Lewis
Zoe Lewis

Erika, call me when you get a chance. Have fun in SF with my mom... please try to get her drunk at some point. Anyway, yes... We have much to discuss. :-)

Peggy Lawrence
Peggy Lawrence

AMEN! I can't even add to that one, putting a cold rag on the sting! Carry on...

Lindsay
Lindsay

I am a flight model. I always run. If something is scary I run and if something is even embarrassing I run. I would do pretty much anything to avoid feeling fearful or feeling embarrassed. This was a great post. Fear CAN be used as a motivator, I'm trying to master this.

poolboydeluxe
poolboydeluxe

Have I used my Airborne School analogy with you yet? If not, here it is: When I went through Airborne School in 2002, we started with 300 students. By the time we got to the final week, Jump Week, where we actually jump out of airplanes, we were down to 200ish. Of that 200, 8 students, in the aircraft, hesitated and had to be... assisted out of the aircraft. Of those 8, 7 realized it wasn't as bad as they had thought and went on to complete the five jumps required for the Parachutist's Badge and graduated. That one person? He said you'd have to throw me out each and every time and I don't care if you send me to Korea, I'm not doing it. Of the 200 people who attempted Jump Week, only one of them couldn't overcome their fear. Sure, seven of them needed help, but they were able to do it. If 199 people out of 200 can beat the (rational) fear of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, most people can overcome whatever fears ail them. Sometimes you need a little "positive" encouragement.

Wookies Girl
Wookies Girl

I love this topic.. I could talk about it all day.. Here are two common definitions, if you will, for FEAR that I am aware of..Fuck, Everything, And, Run....0r Face, Everything, And Recover. Fear is a a big motivator. It is the underlying cause of ever action and reaction that we have and most people don't even know it.. Its comes down to this: Fear I am not going to get what I want. and Fear I am going to lose something that I have. I find that most of my fears are irrational and never happen, never could happen, but that doesn't make them any less real. What I personally find that works is to say whatever it is out loud. BUT.. there is a trick to this... I have to say it out loud to another person. I have to get it up and out so I can hear it, God/the universe/whatever can hear it and another human being hears it. When I say it out loud then it becomes "right sized". In my magic magnifying mind my fears can become HUGE and I, most times, need perspective and at the very least talking about it helps immensely. Great Post Erika *hugs* Wookiesgirl

Kelly Tidd
Kelly Tidd

One of my biggest fears in life has always been mediocrity. I won't go into the huge details of why, but it stems from one seemingly harmless comment made by an adult during my teenage years. The thought of being forgotten terrifies me. However, had I not had this fear, I would not be the pretty awesome person I am today. Since I'm so afraid of being "normal" or "average" I base many of my decisions on the WWAVD (What Would a Vanilla DO?) concept and then do the exact opposite. Because of this, I've become an open-minded, intelligent and pretty outspoken person. I'm still scared of falling into the abyss of the everyday, but I think the affect I've let it have on my life has been overall positive.

Jeff Harbert
Jeff Harbert

I too often find myself listening to MEFM's sister station, WTFE. By giving in to my fear, I make real the very thing I am afraid of. Time to knock it the hell off.

Dysfunction Junction
Dysfunction Junction

Mine are love & loss right now. Fear that I'll never have love and fear that I'll lose that love if I ever find it. Scares the beezjeesus out of me. But I'm working on it, trying to be less afraid. Trying to be kinder to myself for being afraid.

Mike Stenger
Mike Stenger

Awesome stuff Erika. Every time I've not only listened to my gut, but followed through on my gut feeling, I've never been steered wrong. Never. And for anyone complaining, no, I'm not talking about little decisions. I'm talking on the verge of losing everything I have. That's something to think about...

Richard Rudy
Richard Rudy

As I always say "take the chance, failure is a null result in the equation" If you fail, nothing has changed, status quo. Its a known result. Success is what's scary. Its different from right now. Stop being afraid of succeeding.

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