Saturday, July 2, 2022

Fearless!

This week, I’m experiencing a rebirth in my relationships. I’m not only meeting phenomenal new people, but my older relationships have taken a marked turn for the better.

When I paused to ask myself what had changed, I realised that in order to see such a big difference in my material world, first, I had to change my mental world. In this case, I had learned to let go of my fear.

This shift was not immediate, it was more gradual and subtle; and it came about as I practiced consistently replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. I stopped anticipating the worst in people and situations and made a concerted effort to consider positive alternatives.

Often times, when we find ourselves experiencing something new, such as a relationship, we start to imagine what could go wrong and how to mitigate against it. We compare new experiences to those we’ve had in the past because we believe it will help us predict how the new experience will turn out.

Comparing old and new experiences can be a good thing. For example, it’s how we learn anything new, from tying our shoelaces to driving to work every day ÔÇô we don’t have to re-learn the same thing every morning.

The trouble is, we do this with more than our shoe laces – we extend it to our experiences with people and situations too.

Based on our past experiences, we create mental files; and the longer we’ve been around in the world, the larger the files and the more entrenched our views about the world in general.
One negative experience and we start looking at every situation that even remotely resembles that, in the same way.

For instance, if we come across one partner who’s unfaithful, we may form unfavourable opinions about members of the opposite sex in general; that they’re liars and cheats.

When these types of thoughts occur frequently, they become a habit; and once adopted as habits, they become beliefs; and our beliefs greatly influence how we react in various situations.

For example, when we enter a new relationship, we may become easily suspicious; and fearful that we’re going to get our hearts broken. We may even call this negative expectation “being realistic,” because we’ve come to equate optimism with being unrealistic. We do this largely because we’re trying to spare ourselves from greater turmoil down the road.

I used to try to form opinions about people within minutes of meeting them. Most of them weren’t very favourable. They were based on ‘evidence’ I had gathered from dealing with ‘similar people’ in the past; or the opinions of friends who’d gone through something comparable. I was suspicious and determined to foresee every possible disaster. I lived in fear.

Despite diligently trying to pre-empt every possible calamity by rooting out potential evil-doers, my life was worse, not better, as a result of my negative expectations. I had bad relationships not due to anything people had actually done to me, but what I thought they might do.

If the actions of one person disappointed me, my guard about people in general would go up.
Yet being guarded didn’t help me to deal with tough situations. All it did was erode my happiness in the moment.

What’s more, I later realised that I worried a lot about things that never actually came to pass. Fortunately, fleeting worried thoughts don’t give rise to negative circumstances. But the longer we ponder such thoughts, particularly if they are accompanied by strong emotions, the quicker we draw the very thing we fear into our lives; they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

And then we use that as ‘evidence’ to remind ourselves that people can’t be trusted.

When I noticed this paradox, I worked on changing my expectations; and the result has been phenomenal. Even a few days of practising letting go of my fear of how other people might disappoint me has made for more fulfilling relationships.

What’s more, the people in my life benefit because they don’t have to deal with someone who is distrusting; someone who expects the worst from them.

What negative expectations or beliefs do you harbour? Whom, or what, do you fear?

Those negative expectations are not serving you well. All they’re doing is making you insecure and vulnerable to the very things you fear.

None of us need ever be anxious, because we control what happens in our lives through our thoughts. We’ve all harboured negative thoughts around various topics, some of which are long-standing, but this week, when you catch yourself feeding your negative beliefs, look for more positive alternatives.

When you feel bad because you fear the worst about someone, observe the negative thought and let it go; then reach for a more positive one. Doing this consistently will help you change any negative belief, no matter how entrenched it seems.

Start imagining more positive scenarios for your life, such as being in happy, mutually supportive relationships. If this is challenging at first, simply focus on the present moment. Observe your surroundings and the fact that none of the terrible scenarios you’re thinking about actually exist; and won’t unless you continue to focus on them.

Look for the good in situations and other people and you will find it, because we always find evidence to support what we think.

When you realise that you create your world through your thoughts; and that nobody has greater control over how your life turns out than you do, you become fearless!

Assess your mental files and delete any corrupt files that no longer serve you. Replace any self-defeating beliefs with empowering ones. It takes practice but I guarantee you, if you stick with it, you will finally know the true meaning of freedom.

*Primrose Oteng is a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and the Founder of the Positive Peace Project, an organization dedicated to creating positive change through personal empowerment. For more information regarding how we can help you, please contact [email protected]

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