What are you afraid of?

My friend’s therapist asked her that yesterday. It’s been a long time since my therapist has asked me that. She answered “semi-truthfully”. I totally understand that answer. I made a pact with myself when I first started seeing my therapist not to lie to her, but sometimes it’s really hard. I have on a couple of occasions anyway. What’s the point in lying to my therapist? I’m paying her to listen to my neurotic thoughts and help me figure life out. If I lie, I sort of handicap that process, right? Only, sometimes the reasons we lie are complicated. I lied to her once because I was ashamed of the real answer, so I lied to save face. If I’m lying to save face, I care what she thinks ABOUT me. I’m supposed to care what she thinks about how I’m living my life or how things have affected me. I don’t really think I’m supposed to care what she thinks about my moral character. And then, in order to save the facade of my moral character, I abused my moral character by lying, which is against my value system. The other time I lied straight-faced to her was when I wasn’t ready to deal with something yet. I corrected it before the end of the session and resolved to just say that “I’m not ready to deal with that right now” instead of lying. The lying made me anxious. Having an anxious personality to begin with, lying doesn’t help me.

But what I really intended to talk about was “what are you afraid of?”  That’s such a good question. In a nice bit of irony, I’m kind of afraid of that question, because it makes me think about and look at things I don’t want to look at or think about.  In no REAL order of importance, just in the order they came to me:

  1. Being alone in the world.
  2. Trusting people.
  3. Having no income.
  4. Having no place to live.
  5. Not having enough income to pay the bills.
  6. Finding someone I love dead.
  7. Finding anyone dead.
  8. Being hurt intentionally in some horrible way. (rape, torture, physical attack, etc.)
  9. Being hurt in some way that incapacitates me so that I cannot do things at all for myself.
  10. Going blind.
  11. Getting Alzheimers.
  12. Having one of my kids get badly hurt or hurt themselves.
  13. Being “found out” that I can’t really do this or that as well as I try to make it look.
  14. Finding out that there is no God, that everything is by chance and accident. (Ironic since this was my belief until a few years ago.)
  15. Being humiliated.
  16. Scary movies.
  17. Spiderwebs.
  18. Being left out.
  19. Not belonging.
  20. Losing my parents.
  21. Having a loved one go through a long slow painful death.
  22. Living in a post-apocalyptic world, scrambling to survive.
  23. Being abandoned.
  24. Pain.

It strikes me that dying isn’t on my list. I’m not afraid to die particularly. I’m afraid to have it hurt. I’m afraid of anything that will be painful. This makes perfectly good sense. I think there is a sensibility to avoiding pain.

But when this question comes from my therapist, most of those answers aren’t what she’s looking for. She wants to know what I’m afraid of that is making me do or not do something. In the past these were some very driving issues for me. I’m a little more secure in myself than I used to be, but these were my main issues.

  1. Why am I afraid to get a new job?
  2. Why am I afraid of people not liking me?
  3. Why am I afraid of my relationship not working out?
  4. Why am I afraid to believe in God.
  5. Why don’t I trust people?

That list wasn’t intended to be in any particular order, but looking over it I’d say it is after all. The lesser of the scary stuff to the scariest stuff at the bottom. “Why don’t I trust people?” really means “Why are you off the charts afraid of trusting people?”.  Clearly I’m not afraid to share my thoughts. I’ve always been a pretty transparent person. But I’ve never ever ever trusted anyone to be there for me if I needed them. I’ve hoped. I’ve counted on people and been pleased and I’ve counted on people and been disappointed. But I’ve never completely trusted anyone to help me when I need it. I know my husband should be on the list. For the most part he is. But I know that sadly I am too afraid to completely trust anyone. It’s a failing in me, not him, nor anyone else. I do trust him completely to a point. The point being if he started acting strangely, eventually I would become suspicious and stop trusting him until I figured out what was going on and if it was a threat to me or not.

I would say that I’m naturally suspicious of people, but I doubt that suspiciousness comes naturally. I think it’s a learned thing. So sometime, somewhere, suspicious people learn that response to any unusual stimuli. I can practically smell my kids lying. My brain goes into overdrive to figure out what is really going on. However, I can say that I have finally learned to not be suspicious with my husband. That’s a learned response too.  And that’s definitely a plus.

What are you afraid of? Everything and nothing.  Mostly I think we’re just afraid to hurt.

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4 responses to “What are you afraid of?

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