At the end of the day, all we really want as human beings is to know that we are love(d). We will go to any lengths to insure that we are love(d) – including taking on the fears and unhealed wounds of another. Today’s blog is about releasing ourselves from the burden of other people’s fear.
Contrary to the way our conflict and war-torn world might make us believe, human beings are naturally inclined to seek out harmony. In fact, we are hardwired with a biological alert system which signals when we are involved in interactions that are not in support of harmony. Human beings are also naturally inclined toward loving and peaceful actions. It is only when we are afraid that these natural inclinations toward loving and peaceful actions in support of harmonious and loving human relations are thwarted. The challenge is that until we learn how, we are mostly unaware of our fears. When unaware of our own inner anxiety and fear, and without the tools to identify the source of these fears and strategies for coping with them, or even transcending them, our fears tend to come out sideways.
Fear Coming Out Sideways
In most cases, fear that is unacknowledged and unmanaged comes out sideways, typically in the form of blame. We experience a state of unease and unaware of how to handle anxiety, we determine that it must be someone else’s fault. I’m feeling anxious about a work deadline, but instead of identifying and working with my anxiety, I decide the unease is my boss’ fault for being such a hard-ass. Finances are a little tight and I feel anxious about this, but instead of identifying and managing my own anxiety, I lose my temper with my child when they show me they have outgrown all their clothes. I feel burdened and stressed out by the tasks needed to get ready for my daughter’s graduation party. My husband gets called in to work and I bite his head off. It’s my boss’ fault, it is my child’s fault, it’s my husband’s fault. Nope….it is nobody’s fault. We simply feel anxious and we don’t know what to do with it.
Here’s Where it Gets Messy
It would be one thing if all we had to do was manage our own anxiety, but we are pack animals and live and work in proximity with other human beings. Here is where things get messy. Until OTHERS know better, they are just as likely to put their fears on us. And until we are secure in the love that we are, we are likely to accept the blame for their fears in an effort to win their love. We know when we are the one who is being blamed for someone else’s fear, because that biological alert system goes off and (until we know better), we feel shame, which we often quickly cover up with defensive anger. This feeling of shame then triggers our fear of rejection. Somehow, somewhere, by some strange act of nature (or conditioning), we are SURE we are at fault – their anger, sadness, distress, etc. etc. etc. must somehow be our responsibility. THEN we do everything we can do to please the other person in an attempt to earn back the love we are sure has now been denied us, including picking up their fear, etc. and carry it around, doing grave danger to ourselves either through self-punishing thoughts and behaviors or defensive rage. The trick is, it is really not our fault, and the other person does not have the power to deny us of the love that is the very nature of our being.
It’s Not Our Fault
Unfortunately, the “it is not our fault” piece can’t happen until we get a handle on our own anxiety. We can’t point out the splinter in our brother’s eye until we remove the plank from our own. Once we understand how to identify and work with our own anxiety, then we can address the projected blame of others. When another tries to make us responsible for their own anxiety, the first step is to do an inventory – did we actually do something wrong? Did we make a mistake? Did we inadvertently cause harm? If so….immediately take responsibility for it, apologize if necessary, forgive ourselves, them move on. If we have not done anything wrong, then the next step is to purge ourselves of the shame ignited by the other person’s fear and the resulting fear of rejection. If we did nothing wrong….then it is not our fault, and it is not our job to carry around shame, neither is it our job to chase the other person around trying to make them happy. Their anxiety, is their responsibility and their responsibility alone and love has nothing to do with it. We may choose to be a source of support in helping them learn to manage their anxiety (when appropriate), but it is not our job to make them happy. We need to be very clear on this piece. In spite of the natural human inclination toward harmony and the resulting desire to be love(d), it is not our job to make other people happy, neither is it helpful for us to accept responsibility for their fears and other unhealed wounds. In fact, this dynamic of projected blame and accepting this blame is a distortion of humanity’s natural desire for harmony and our natural propensity to love. In truth, authentic harmony is not arrived at until we each take responsibility for our own fears, learn how to manage or heal them, and stop projecting them on to others. Imagine what the world would be like if we all learned to manage our own fears, including the fear of rejection, and stopped taking on the burden of other people’s fears.