What We Most Need To Overcome Fear!
Updated: Feb 13, 2019
Fear of rejection keeps many of us from embarking on the pursuit of what we most desire in our lives.
More paralyzing than fear is the absence of love. Courage is only needed when we are confronting a difficult situation alone.
In 1988, as he prepared for his 10th and final dive of the men’s Olympic, 10-meter platform diving competition in Seoul, South Korea, Greg Louganis knew that he stood on the verge of Olympic history. Already one of the most decorated and dominant divers in history, Louganis trailed a 14 year-old Chinese phenom who was on the brink of outperforming him and wining Olympic gold. The young Chinese had just completed his ten dives and led Louganis by a margin of 3 points. To overcome this deficit in his final effort and defeat the Chinese diver, thus cementing his position as the best male diver ever (yes, ever), Louganis needed to nail the most difficult dive possible from the 10 meter diving platform- a reverse 3 ½ somersault that requires the diver to leap outward into the air, spin wildly backwards, avoid hitting his head on the edge of the concrete platform, and enter the water blindly in a near vertical position with little or no splash. As the world watched, Louganis performed the dive majestically, winning the competition over his Chinese counterpart by a mere 1.14 points and earning his fourth Olympic diving gold-medal.
In subsequent interviews, when asked to comment about the magnitude of that moment, and his ability to perform under intense pressure, Louganis remarked that at the end of the day, the outcome of that final dive mattered little, for he was comforted by the knowledge that whatever the result, his mother would still love him!
Approximately 22 years following the 1988 Olympic games, on a warm, Southern California summer morning, I sat in my car consumed by terror. I was about to return a phone call to a man I had twice shared dinner with in the previous two weeks. It was my intention during this phone call, to disclose to this man that I liked him and wished to date him. As I made the call, I felt as if the ground beneath my feet was opening-up to reveal a bottomless pit that would swallow me whole where I to dare express my interest in this man and my desire to explore a relationship with him.
Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and complete the call. I did not “nail” my dive, however. My expression of attraction and desire was rejected. I recall feeling embarrassed and resentful at this man’s refusal to reciprocate my interest in exploring an intimate relationship with him.
My recovery program tools helped me then to let go of the resentment. But the sting of that rejection lingered and was not soothed until I discovered and developed new tools that I now share with coaching clients who, themselves, are on a quest to move beyond the fear of rejection, or the anger and resentment that may emerge when not chosen for a desired position, job, partnership, date, etc.
I will introduce you today to a much abridged version of this work- one that can liberate you to take healthy risks…to stand on the edge of your highest platform and dare launch yourself skyward, toward your dreams, knowing that, no matter the outcome, you are safe and sound, free from the terror that might otherwise stop you.
Fear of rejection keeps many of us from embarking on the pursuit of what we most desire in our lives. Overcoming this fear is a popular topic in the self-help literature. My contribution to this topic is based on a model of mind that differs from the one that most of us have learned and internalized as truth. This newer model has been labeled the Multiplicity of Mind to differentiate it from traditional models that perceive mind as unitary or monolithic. The newer model conceives of mind as composed of parts e can get to know and with whom we can build relationships and engage in conversations.
What follows may be new for many of you and, I hope, grants you a new set of tools for overcoming the dread that can accompany risk-taking. You see, it is not the absence of fear we need in order to navigate life; what liberates us from the stuckness and indecision engendered by fear of failure or rejection, is the knowledge that the parts of us that are burdened with fear and insecurity will ultimately be safe and loved no matter the outcome of our endeavors. Only this expectation of safety transforms a paralyzing fear into excitement. For example, it is the knowledge that a rollercoaster cart is securely attached to the track upon which it rides that allows us to enjoy the terror of riding upside down through loop-de-loops and other death-defying twists and turns.
If you feel anger or resentment toward people who, like the man I referenced above, choose not to date you, or find you undesirable, or fail to select you for a job, position, speaking engagement or other desirable gig, you are likely experiencing the activation of a part of you that carries the memories of a painful episode of childhood trauma or abandonment. Adult fear of rejection is closely linked to the terror we felt as children when faced with any form of parental abandonment. If the episodes of childhood abandonment were severe or repeatedly threatened your attachment to a parental source of love, validation and safety, you likely experienced tremendous fear at those times. To re-establish your connection to your parental source of love and safety, you may have blamed yourself for the abandonment you lived through and concluded that some parts of you threatened your overall safety and had to be disowned or exiled. In addition, other parts of your personality then emerged- I label these parts “protectors”- to ensure that the disowned aspects of you remained hidden, thus safeguarding you from again experiencing the painful dread of separation from mom or dad that would accompany the re-emergence of your exiles. These “protectors” function to ensure that your disowned parts remain confined to the psychic dungeons to which they have been relegated.
As adults, when these “protectors” are triggered, we experience their activation as urges, desires, thoughts, anger, or impulses that arise whenever current-day situations present us with the possibility of the old hurt resurfacing (such as might happen if we were to face rejection). Hence, we may avoid taking healthy risks that confront us with the possibility of failure. In addition to keeping us from taking healthy risks, these protective parts may allow some movement toward a desired goal, but then astutely sabotage our efforts to pursue that which we most desire, thus ensuring a failed outcome. In this way, though the outcome is assured to be disappointing, they attain a sense of safety through control of the final result of our efforts.
What is to be done? The first task is to acquaint yourself with the model of mind I have presented here. Contact me for a list of articles that discuss the theoretical underpinnings of this model if you are interested in learning more.
Having familiarized my clients with the Multiplicity of Mind model during the initial coaching sessions, we develop strategies to befriend fear and discard the avoidant, life-limiting habits (procrastination, perfectionism, self-sabotage, etc.) of their protectors. The most important of the strategies based on the Multiplicity of Mind model, is to become your own source of unconditional love. To commit to unconditional self-love is to consciously choose to cease all self-loathing, criticism and judgment of your self, no matter what. It is to recognize that you alone are the only one who will never abandon your exiled parts. It is to commit to daily practices that make your healing adult presence (see below) a reality for the vulnerable inner children who may not yet know or trust that adult self you possess.
The role of self-love is often alluded to in the various self-help disciplines to which people gravitate to at times of personal turmoil. In my coaching, I don’t just pay lip service to this idea, I teach you specific techniques based on the model just described that result in a practical experience of that self-loving presence and, most importantly, soothe the hurt and fear of your exiles and protectors.
Within you exists a healing presence that knows only love and compassion for all- one that can be developed through specific practices. You have always possessed this essential Self, but it was likely marginalized early in your childhood (when it was still nascent and barely evolved) by the same traumatic experiences that led to the exiling process and the rise of your protectors. This healing presence- I call it your Higher Self- has never left you. It patiently awaits your rediscovery of it. It, along with your parents (and the family pet) is the only source of unconditional love you will ever have.
To heal your Inner child’s hurt, to ease your exiles anxiety and fears, so all feel safe and grounded and no longer relate to people around you (bosses, friends, lovers) as the guarantors of their safety, and to allow your protectors to relax enough that they do not prevent you from taking healthy risks, YOU must become your own source of unconditional love; you must become the primary caretaker of your vulnerable parts. You must come to know and nurture your Higher Self! You must envision Him, your exiled vulnerabilities and your protectors as real entities. I can teach you how to do this and how to reach out to all of your parts and offer them love and compassion, guidance and boundaries. If you do so, you will develop a relationship with them based on reliability and trustworthiness and they will no longer seek out love, safety and validation through others.
Your parts will learn to turn toward you as their source of safety and love (the rollercoaster’s secure attachment to its track), and this will lead to the transformation of fear into excitement. Then you, too, will be able to stand on the edge of the 10-meter platform of life, ready and willing to take the leaps of faith that may grant you joy, love, intimacy and freedom- the outcomes that all your parts ultimately desire and deserve.