They scurry around, invisible and silent, gnawing away at the support structures.
Somewhere in there, my fears.
On a random night, when it’s late, I flip on the light switch, and there they are, too many to count.
Perhaps it was triggered by something.
A failure somewhere, where I had been expecting a victory.
Or reality crowding my warm delusions, because I’ve taken action far out of my comfort zone.
There they are, my fears. Creatures with another name.
I’m too old. I’m past my prime. I’m wasting my life.
I’m on the wrong track. I’ll never get married and have kids. I’ll never make enough money.
People don’t care about me like they used to. My friends have all left me.
I’m losing confidence.
I’m a loser.
I repeat them out loud. All of my fears.
I shine a light on the inner most darkness of my mind.
I’ll never be happy in a relationship. I suck at meeting women. Everyone I know is better than me.
The more light I shine, the more fears surface. I didn’t realize there were so many.
Too late to stop now. I keep going.
My health is failing. I’m going to go into debt. I’m going to die alone
I speak all of my fears out loud.
And something starts to happen.
As I look them in the face and say, “What? Is that all you got for me?” I stop wrestling with them.
They no longer haunt the back of my mind.
Positive affirmations can be useful. I talk about that from time to time here on this site.
I like to think of them as a reminder.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting next to a girl and right before I start talking with her, I visualize how much she wants me.
Or I’ll walk around, telling myself that women want to fuck me everywhere I go.
But at the same time, *constantly* pressuring yourself to think positive thoughts can backfire.
One of the most important aspects of no longer wrestling with approach anxiety is learning to recognize and accept ALL of your thoughts, no matter what they are.
You’re not trying to change your thoughts or your feelings. You can’t. Instead you are taking action. And as you take action, those thoughts tend to subside.
But whenever you challenge yourself, there are always fears.
There was an article in the New York Times recently called The Power of Negative Thinking
Take affirmations, those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: “I am a lovable person!” “My life is filled with joy!” Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse – not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.
Though much of this research is new, the essential insight isn’t. Ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers understood the need to balance the positive with the negative, optimism with pessimism, a striving for success and security with an openness to failure and uncertainty.
The Stoics recommended “the premeditation of evils,” or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope.
Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.
One of the reasons I like positive affirmations is that I do start to hear the negative thoughts that are there, thoughts that are there anyway.
It brings those negative thoughts to the surface, so I can face them.
However, you can go straight to the source and do an exercise I call Affirmations in Reverse.
Stand in front of a mirror for five or ten minutes and say all of your deepest darkest fears.
Speak them aloud. Don’t stop until you can’t think of any more fears.
And watch as their power is neutralized.
Something happens when I speak the words. As I say them, I start to realize how deep those fears go.
More fears start to surface. I’ve lifted a rock and found worms underneath.
The worst place for those fears is buried deep in my psyche, torturing me as I try to push them back down.
As I speak those fears, they no longer have a hold on me. They’re still there, but their power is dried up.
I know I can face them.
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