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Change; Making Friends with Fear

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW, CHt.

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about change and fear. I know I am supposed to be writing about ADD, but the thoughts and feelings around the idea of change and fear keep flowing into my mind; so I have decided to share some of my thoughts about this, knowing that change and fear is something that is universal to us all.

Change is the one universal thing that each of us experience daily in our lives. But the really big ones, which create tremendous fear, are the ones that have the most potential for our inner growth and transformation.

I can honestly say that I have lived a courageous life for the most part; having taken big leaps of faith when many would have taken an easier road, (having made major life decisions on my own most of my life, starting my own company at 27, moving to a new state and starting a new career at age 40,  facing cancer and my own mortality at 50) but I can also say that fear has also been a pervasive companion along the way, and a formidable one at that. And I have noted, as I have grown older that making changes has been increasingly difficult for me. Accepting change that I have no control over is a bit easier because I understand the dynamic of change and the cycles that exist in life in terms of death and re-birth. But the stepping out into the future creating the change (not just accepting it) seems to be the place that has been most difficult for me.

Having just resigned from my position of 11 years, this past July, as a director at a University, so that I might pursue my private practice full time, is the perfect example. I felt the rumblings of this fear, recognizing its arrival a couple of years back, when I first thought of creating a new life for myself. Anxiety and fear were the motivating energetic forces that moved me forward every day. In truth, I wished that I could just be OK with the status quo. After all, wasn’t this the worst economic times in the history of my entire life? Wasn’t I lucky to have such a stable solid job? What if it didn’t work out and I had to look for another job in this depleted job market? Wasn’t it foolish to take a risk at the ripe age of 57, when folks would rather hire a much younger less “seasoned” professional? What if I felt too isolated working totally alone? On and on my mind went, feeding this fear, while imagining all the possible negative scenarios.

And then I considered 3 things;

1. My mother. My mother collapsed while blowing out the birthday candles on her birthday cake while at work on her 53rd birthday, never to return home again, having died of a brain hemorrhage 6 months later.
2. My father. Who, while going for his regular morning walk one Saturday morning, died on his feet at 69 of a massive heart attack.
3. My Aunt Hellen. My father’s twin sister, who gently reminded me of the above. And her words to me, “don’t let fear paralyze you”.

Maybe the last gift my parents gave me was the realization that life does not go on forever and that all we know for sure is that we are here right now at this moment. Perhaps risking change for the sake of a better life is worth taking, while we can, even if it feels frightening and looming to us, because not risking it may mean that we might not ever have that chance again. And so, having made friends with fear, recognizing its intrinsic intelligence, listening to its message of wisdom and transformation, I reluctantly let go of the past and allowed life to move me forward to the place I am now. Working for myself, growing my practice, finding a new way of being and defining the parameters of my life in a whole new way. Easy? No. Worth it? Definitely!