We all have it at times ….
Of the unknown. Of change. Of a bad diagnosis. Of loss. Of death.
And, there can be so much more to fear.
The world is a scary place. There is danger and risk involved with everything we do. Fear can debilitate us. Fear can paralyze us. Fear can defeat us. Fear can keep us from trying new and different things. Fear can keep us from having loving relationships. Fear can keep us from experiencing life-changing growth and the exhilarating joys of life. Fear can keep us from living our lives to their fullest and keep us from being the best versions of ourselves we can be.
Fear can hurt us more than the healthy risks we are afraid to take, the relationships we are afraid to have, and the growth we are afraid to embrace.
It keeps us down. It keeps us out. It keeps us from enjoying the life we are meant to have.
Last week, we were invited to speak to a civic organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful time with its members. They were receptive and engaged with our message about the transformative power of listening.
Before the program began, as we talked with the nonprofit executive who advocated for us and invited us to speak to the group, she mentioned some of the stresses she was feeling because of her professional responsibilities. In relation to them, she brought up the issue of fear and its all-too common stranglehold on us. We wondered how she responded to those stresses and the fear that can often accompany them. She shared that her way of confronting the fear is that she’s learned to deconstruct fear as so often meaning this:
False Expectations Appearing Real
We love that perspective! It is one we immediately knew we had to share.
Usually, those fearful false expectations we so often have, focus on failure, disaster, and disappointment. So often, when we look ahead to a potentially challenging, complicated, or unknown situation, our thinking goes to the worst-case scenarios all-too quickly and easily. We imagine things going wrong and act as if they will. We worry and ruminate. We fret and turn over and over in our minds all that could befall us. And many experts in human behavior believe that we are hard-wired to go to those darker spaces, the sinister corners, of our minds out of an evolutionary survival instinct to protect ourselves from the real and tangible threats to our very existence. It’s a holdover from the days when the risks of survival were so much worse. But most of us don’t have lions and tigers and bears lurking around to eat us anymore. Modern medicine and knowledge keep most of us living so much longer. We understand the cause and effect of most dangers and are so much better equipped to avoid more disasters than ever before.
Yet there is, absolutely, a need for us to consider the very real risks and dangers in our lives. Yes, the world is a scary place full of threats, bad possibilities, and evident probabilities for failure. Even the best gifts of life can hurt us when something goes wrong – a satisfying job ending because a workplace culture turns toxic, a cherished relationship fractured because trust is destroyed, a loved one’s death because their disease could not be cured. Every good and meaningful gift in life can have its painful underside. The goodness can end. Things can go wrong. Failures can happen. And we never like it when they do. We do have to be realistic about those facts of life. That pain and disappointment are inevitable. That illness and loss will occur. That relationships always come with the possibility of producing pain.
But … what is the purpose of a life filled only with fear, fueled only by the potential for what can go wrong, by what might not work out? Is that what life is about? It is not a life we want to live, at least not in that way. Fearful of the what ifs. Afraid to change and grow. Resistant to good changes and new possibilities and new ways of seeing things. Reluctant to learn more. Refusing to forgive. Unwilling to love one more time after getting hurt. Unable to take chances that could lead to incredible experiences.
The fact is Someone To Tell It To would never have been started if we weren’t willing to take a risk on doing something new. But 11 years ago, we recognized that loneliness, emotional isolation, and disconnection, are rising to epidemic proportions. And we wanted to do something about it. We wanted to help others form deeper, more emotionally intimate relationships of depth and meaning. We believed that listening with compassion, empathy, and intention were the keys to deepening relationships, creating meaningful connections, and strengthening the social contract that all of us need to live abundantly as human beings.
We believe these things even more today.
We believe that the risk we took 11 years ago to create this listening space for others to begin to thrive, to learn, and to grow in the transformative power that listening well absolutely can bring. Our common human condition of needing one another requires that we learn to listen to one another and to ourselves. To listen for the nuances of one another’s spirit, to the dreams and hopes and fears so that we can support one another. To listen for the matters of the heart that are at the heart and core of who each of us are. To love one another, which is what listening actually is.
Were (are) we fearful at times along the way? Most certainly. Did we have false expectations that seemed all too real? Definitely. Have we questioned the risks we took – and still take every day – to further this mission and grow its impact and outreach to the world? Absolutely. Would we do it all again? You can bet we would.
Because we see the results of listening’s impact every day.
When we know and are known. When we reach out to connect and are connected with in return. When we love and are loved, which is what listening so beautifully does. Then, we know the risks are well worth the effort.
And who wants to live in a world without being known, without connections of meaning and depth and without the love that we inherently thrive on and need?
Photo by Maxwell Nelson on Unsplash