What lies behind your fears

If you feel that fears are keeping you stuck and preventing you from stepping up into more of your personal power, it might be very useful to work through your fears in a deep and thorough way which goes beyond few tips and tools. Fear is the most fundamental emotion that any human can feel – and its opposite – the sense of safety and security – is the most basic human need.

A sense of safety and security is like foundations of a house on which you build everything else in your life. If your foundations are weak, whatever you are trying to do and build in your life later might cave in under pressure.

What lies behind fears and how is it that so many people struggle with all kinds of fears? It is mostly because fear was embedded and anchored deeply into our subconscious mind in the earliest period of our lives, when we were babies or small children.

When we get born, the foremost need we have is to survive and feel secure and safe in our environment. Our caregivers, primarily our Mother, is to provide this sense of safety, she is to provide us with the most basic trust toward life: that our most basic needs will be met and that it is safe to be and express who we are. If our Mother is not able to provide us with this sense of security, very early on, we develop a basic distrust toward life. As a result, we may have formed deeply rooted subconscious beliefs that no matter what we do, we can’t be safe and that our needs can’t be met. Later on in our life, this may play out as various kinds of fears, such as fear to express our wants and needs, fear to assert ourselves, fear to go after what we want in life or even as not being fully clear what our needs are in the first place. And it may look as a mystery to us how come that some people are so confident and successful, while we can’t seem to be able to move forward in life.

As long as we are unable to recognise and understand when and how our fears have developed, we may be trying to fix them in inefficient or too simplistic ways. We may be unable to detect the real causes and try to work on symptoms of fears that will most probably lead us nowhere.

There is an attachment theory as a psychological model that explains that as we get born, we form specific types of attachment with our primary caregivers. There are 4 kinds of attachment types and depending on which one was yours, you might have developed stronger or weaker fears. The four types are: secure attachment (caregivers are consistent and stable in providing care to their children and are sensitive and responsive to their needs – providing their children a sense of security and confidence), avoidant attachment (adults who are emotionally unavailable and thus, insensitive to their children’s needs making their children self-sufficient and independent prematurely and avoiding even trying to get their needs met from others), ambivalent/anxious attachment (parents who are inconsistent, sometimes responsive and insensitive at other times, causing children to feel insecure and distrustful, never knowing what to expect from others) and disorganised attachment (families with physical or emotional abuse causing children to freeze and dissociate from their feelings as a way to deal with overwhelming experiences).

These attachment styles are formed during the first two years of our lives and form a pattern that later reflects in intimate relationships we form with other people. Your particular type of attachment will largely influence your expectations from others (both good and bad) and what you deem is possible for you in life (whether your needs will be met and whether it is safe for you to assert and fulfil them).

If there was a repeated pattern of negative feedback and negative circumstances that we have experienced as a child, or worse, a serous trauma, fears develop as a self-preserving behaviour covering up deeper wounds and hurts. You may have been deeply hurt and wounded if your mother (and both parents) were experiencing  negative emotions or depression, if they were perfectionist, very critical, judgemental, very demanding or were punishing you (let alone  worst cases of dysfunctional family patterns such as abuse and trauma). Fears which are formed from such life experiences are simply a self-preserving mechanism. All negative and strong emotions we felt as kids are then pushed down to subconscious so that we can deal with them later when we grow up and get mature enough.

When we were babies or small children, we were completely dependant on our parents for survival (both physical, as well as emotional). We were small, vulnerable, fragile and resourceless. From that resourceless state, any negative emotion imprinted on us left us feeling completely powerless and this is one of the reasons why fears may keep you so stuck in your life, as this illusion of powerlessness and resourcelessness is still echoing in you. As an adult, you have developed many skills, qualities and resources that will enable you to face your fears and expand your capacity to process negative emotions and transform them.

If you’re struggling with particular fears, start observing what kind of situations and emotions you are trying to avoid and what wound lies beneath your fears and see what connection you can make with what you might have experienced as a young child. Overcoming your fears will be possible when you have fully understood and worked through your deepest wounds and your core negative beliefs.

By Katarina Supicic