What Am I Afraid Of?


How on earth are we born with so much prospective for emotional achievement, yet we wind up making ourselves throw up, murdering people who don’t cooperate with us, punching people in the throat who speak their mind and making ourselves depressed when we find ourselves cheated on, taken advantage of, lied to and criticized?

Well, the answer to this question, for me, is to ask myself what I am afraid of.  Once I discover the answer to that question, I can often begin to discover the source of nearly any emotional challenge I encounter in myself and others, e.g., “My partner doesn’t love me anymore.  What am I afraid of?  I am afraid I will be alone.  I am afraid I won’t ever find anyone to love me again if he doesn’t love me anymore.  I am afraid I will be inconvenienced, uncomfortable, worried, scared and depressed and I won’t be able to stand that.  I’m afraid that I will be thought of as completely bad and unattractive because my partner rejected me.”

That is a lot to be afraid of.

In an attempt not to continually burden my learner with brain anatomy, suffice it to say that your emotions begin as thoughts, but can be viewed more microscopically as actual physical substances – neurons, brain cells, little bubbles of knowledge that hold the memories of your experiences. Here’s another example of defining the problem and finding meaning:

EI Guide:  So what happened?

Learner:  She stared at me the wrong way.  I could tell she was thinking, You disgust me.

EI Guide:  Goodness, what did you do?

Learner:  I told her to watch her face or I’d watch it for her.

EI Guide:  How did you know she was thinking that particular thought about you?  Maybe she ate something that upset her stomach.

Learner:  Believe me; I’ve seen that face before. I know ridicule when I see it.

EI Guide: I’ll play along.  What was she doing, exactly?

Learner:  Well, I was eating my baked cod and she was looking over at me.  Like she was looking down her nose at me.

EI Guide: How was that a problem for you?

Learner:  She should be looking at her own plate.  She shouldn’t be staring at me. I need to have some privacy when I’m eating. You know what I mean?

EI Guide:  I’m sure I don’t.  But let’s just ask what this means, this looking and staring.  What does it mean to you that she was doing all these things?

Learner:  It means she was looking down at me because of the way I was dressed.  I was wearing jeans and a tube top. This is America.  A man can wear jeans and a tube top if he wants!”

EI Guide:  Exactly.  But what does it mean to you that she was looking at you that way?”

Learner:  It means she thought I was foolish and a joke and that she was better than me.”

EI Guide:  And what would it mean if that were true?

Learner:  That she was right?

Through repeated experience, brain cells connect with one another and strengthen their bonds, forming nuclei – clusters, collections, bubbles of knowledge, like balloons in a bunch that have come together in an agreement to cooperate in order to achieve a particular future behavioral goal. “If I see this kind of facial expression again, it means the person is thinking these thoughts.  If people think these thoughts about me, then I cannot stand it.”

It will take the force of will to overcome this.

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2 responses

  1. This is the best information I’ve read by you so far Dr. Cornwall, and I love and learn from all your posts. I will be doing some heavy work on trying to learn to identify my fears right away in charged or anxious situations!

    PS That picture is soooo very adorable! lol

    Thank you,
    RoseCityRemona

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