We are getting into the section of the book where David Richo is talking about what to do with fear. By this time, you know that part of being human is experiencing fear…. But why? “We were learning about intimacy in every childhood scenario and imago [relationship]. This is why relating will require a knowledge of and program for handling our fears” (p. 144). What is in it for us to handle those fears? “We love more freely and effectively when we let go of the fears that have been shadowing us for a lifetime” (p. 144). Sounds nice, right? I think so!
I’m excited because I get to talk about working with our humanness, not against it. David Richo is always telling us to admit the fear, feel it and continue on as if it weren’t there. His whole idea is not to eradicate it, but is more focused on integrating it. Well, that doesn’t really fit with our standard western approach, does it? Usually it goes more like: 1. Find the problem 2. Find a way to stop it, kill it, cut it out of the equation.
Think about this metaphor for a second (don’t get too technical, OK, it is just a metaphor!): you are like a company that has employees doing different jobs. You have a budget for payroll and if everyone is doing their job, the company is running smoothly. Well, you find out that there is a position that is no longer necessary. What’s going to happen? Maybe you create a new position and have the person in the old position do the new, updated job or you have extra in your budget to pay your other employees more or some other place where either the money or the energy of an employee will go if a position is eliminated. There is going to be at least a brief period of change that might include some protest and grief until everyone realizes that the new system is just as good or even better.
Ok, now you are a human being that has been living with an insidious fear. You do David Richo’s beautiful program of handling your fear. Look what happens! Now you have a surplus of energy that can do more productive work than plaguing you and your relationships with fear. Think about how much time and energy you spend being anxious or fearful about things that are not even real (this is the position you are eliminating). Think about how much time you spend dealing with the effects of that fear (maybe it causes fights in your relationship or results in you losing sleep at night which creates a cascade of other consequences). Alright, if you just used the standard way of cutting it out, you would lose all that surplus! It would be like cutting off your pinkie toe. We have that weird toe for a reason! “As long as we are trying to get rid of fear, we are not giving hospitality to something that is a deep part of our identity” (p. 145).
So, by getting close to our fear, admitting it, allowing it to be there, but acting as if it weren’t there (i.e. I’m going to tell her I love her even though she might not feel it or say it back), we get to keep that surplus and take advantage of that converted energy. Think about times when you do something even though you are afraid. Don’t you feel a rush of excitement or flood of relief? I do! That is the surplus of energy and resource that is being released when the fear is confronted and integrated. Do that a little bit at a time and you have a lot more employees doing productive work rather than silently sabotaging your company. And, remember that growth is not linear, so know that a period of transition (including possible cameos of protest and grief) may come before the new way of doing things becomes “the way”.
**credit for the metaphor about integration goes to Lara Schwartz, MFT, a phenomenal clinician and talented healer.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".