This episode goes with Chapter 1, Section 6 of Anxiety…I’m So Done with You! In it, I talk about how our problems are grounded in three basic fears.
You’ll learn the following:
- What those three basic fears are
- How they are related to each other
- How fears affect your mental health
- Why humans desperately want to belong
The three basic fears are beneath all concerns and anxieties we have. I show you how they appear and why, so you can understand why we’re dealing with such anxiety.
The ultimate basic fear is that you’re not loved or not worthy. That fear makes you afraid of rejection and failure. It’s what drives the comparison culture we all find ourselves in. We’re always trying to be the best, to be smart enough or rich enough, to be cool enough. But enough is undefinable, and so, unreachable.
Understanding how to unpack things that upset you is something I walk you through in this episode. Once you understand the root cause of your upsetness, you’ll understand how the Western standards of perfection are plaguing us.
“It is essential to understand that you don’t have to do anything alone, and you can take care of yourself at the same time. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact, taking care of yourself is taking care of your family and your community. You are not separate from them. Whatever you do for somebody else, you do for yourself, and whatever you do for yourself, you do for somebody else.”Dr. Jodi Aman
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Three Basic Fears and Your Ultimate Fear Transcription
Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!”
I am so excited about this podcast. It accompanies my book by the same name, “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” It’s a teen’s guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness because that is what we’re going to do in the series: We’re ditching that freaking toxic stress and hardwiring your brain to generate happiness every day.
This is what you do: You read or listen to a section of the book. Then come on over here and listen to an episode where we’re going to go a little bit deeper, give more examples, and tell more stories. I want to provide you with everything you need to be sure that you find your way out of this horrible anxiety cycle so that you no longer have to suffer. Please leave me a five-star review on Apple podcasts. That’ll help me get in the ears of more people who need this series. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among teenagers, and this series will change the tide. Welcome to this episode.
We’re talking about Chapter 1, Section 6: The Basic Fears.
As you’ve read in this section, there are three basic fears. They are the fear of being trapped, rejection, and failure. These are fears that are underneath all of our problems. That might sound weird. Or, it might have surprised you. Hopefully, I explained in this section how these three basic fears are related. The way they’re related is that underneath each of them is the ultimate basic fear: fear that you’re not worthy or unloved. This is really important for us as humans because we are social beings. Humans want to belong. If we get any sense that we are unworthy of that belonging, it is devastating to our psyche.
All of our problematic interactions, all of our lost opportunities, all of our struggles, all of our nervousness, all of it, if you unpack it, and you unpack it, it is related to these basic fears and this ultimate basic fear:
The fear of being unloved or unworthy.
That makes sense! We always look at memes on social media to remind ourselves that we are worthy. It’s acknowledging that we all relate to these memes because we all feel the same sense of inadequacy. Unfortunately, it is a pervasive feeling in our culture to feel unworthy. It impacts all of us, whether it is conscious or unconscious.
I read this book once, which talks about humans having a shabby self-esteem. And that made me feel so understood. You are not the only one who has a shabby self-esteem. Our self-esteem is negatively impacted by Western culture. In fact, it comes from colonizing culture with all of these high expectations to be good-enough, smart-enough, rich-enough, light-enough, perfect-enough, cool-enough, and kind-enough (Everything has to be “exactly perfect enough”!). But those expectations are completely unrealistic, and you can’t achieve them even if you try.
We attach to high expectations in an attempt to prevent us from feeling inferior to others. Unfortunately, they often pressure you to act superior to others WHILE they make you feel inferior, worthless, and inadequate anyway. Also, we don’t know how to define or measure these expectations. We don’t know how high you have to be to meet them, so we overshoot to ensure we succeed. This is the extent humans are driven to belong. We are attached to belonging because as our brains and psyches developed for millions of years in early humanity, we needed community, or else, we would die out there. We needed to belong!
Many times over those millions of years, you’d be rejected by the whole group if one person rejected you. But in modern times, we could be rejected by one person, and we still belong and have other people that are kind to us or nice to us. However, inside us, in our brains, we still have that reaction as if we will die if we’re kicked out of the group. I hope you can relate to these basic fears and recognize examples of them in your own life.
We’re going to do an exercise together, which is the exercise at the end of this section of the book. I want to do it together to illustrate how it could help you. In the world of business, this is called a Root Cause Analysis. You use it when trying to uncover and figure out a problem where you unpack it to see what caused it.
Root Cause Analysis Exercise
For this exercise, think of a story that has upset you. Try to think of something recent or get something that’s not that too severe to start this process. When you’re trying a new practice, I recommend beginning with something less intense or low-stakes. It’ll help to get some proficiency before using the exercise with something more complex. Many people make that mistake. They don’t try a skill until they’re really upset and desperate and then say, ‘It doesn’t work!’ Instead, practice and hone the skill when you are calm. Then, when you’re upset, it’s already integrated. Back to the exercise: think of a current or recent story that has upset you and bring it to your mind’s eye. I’m going to be quiet for a moment so you can bring it into your consciousness.
Start the unpacking by asking yourself why it bothers you:
- Why were you upset?
Once you’ve uncovered what bothered you, ask yourself:
- What bothered you about that?
Then you could ask yourself:
- What bothered you about that?
- And with each thing you uncover, ask yourself:
- What is it that bothered me about that?
until you come to the root of the fear or the root of the problem.
“Are all problems fear?”
At the very, very base of them, yes, they are. At the very core of all of our problems, everything that’s going on in our life that upsets us, at the very base, we are upset that something precious to us has been lost or threatened. Let me say that again. At the very base of all of our problems, we are upset that there’s something that is precious to us, something important to us, something we give value to, has been lost or threatened. So for grieving something, obviously something that we loved is lost. More examples are being afraid you’ll lose something or having someone invalidate something precious to you.
You can see in these examples how all upsetness is a threat or a loss of something that is precious to you. Being trapped is a loss of freedom, loss of autonomy, loss ability, and loss of control. Rejection is evident. Somebody rejects you or makes you feel like you’re unworthy. What’s lost is your worth or sense that you’re enough. Fear of failure is obvious too. When you fail, you lose the possibility of success.
After you do this process of thinking about your problem and unpacking it, and then unpacking it again, and unpacking it again, and get at your basic fear, then ask yourself what that basic fear says about what is important to you:
- What is important to me that was lost or threatened in this problem?
- What was devalued?
- What was dissed or dismissed?
When unpacking problems, find and shine light on what is precious to you that you did not want to be threatened, devalued, or lost.
Once you know what it is, you can do something about it. You could validate it, lift it up, or reconnect to it. You’re probably thinking: What do you do if you lose something or someone? How do you reconnect to it? You could reconnect to their influence on your life, their impact on who you are, and what they have meant to you. Or you could honor them by paying it forward, thus re-claim their meaning and value by inspiring or helping others.
Okay, back to the Western standards that influence our unrealistic expectations about ourselves. These western standards of being good enough or perfect or in control? They are plaguing our hearts and our souls. When they are unconscious, they have more power in our lives. They lie to you about yourself and hurt you. They have hurt people all around the world because they are the mechanism that gets people to colonize other people by trying to hold them up to some standards of, quote, “being civilized or independent or individualistic.”
Another way to see it is if you had a childhood bully who always told you how terrible and stupid you were. After having an experience like that, even when they’re a long time out of your life, you pick up the torch and tell yourself the same mean things as if the bully is still there, but you’re the bully. As for the expectations, we think it’s society telling us what we have to do, but we’re picking up the torch and putting that pressure on our own selves that don’t match what our hearts and souls want.
However, when we make them visible and know what they are and how they affect us, we can make conscious decisions to decrease their influence on us, our lives, and our relationships. That is how we decolonize our minds.
Decolonizing our minds and communities
It is the same way we need to decolonize our communities. We decolonize our communities by fighting against inequity, discrimination, racism, or oppression that makes people feel less than they are. Decolonizing the mind means letting go of those high expectations and knowing that relationships are how we thrive.
Knowing that we don’t have to do anything alone and we can take care of ourselves too, that it’s not selfish to take care of ourselves, and that taking care of ourselves is taking care of our families and our communities. We are not separate. Whatever we do for somebody else, we do for ourselves, and whatever we do for ourselves, we do for somebody else.
That understanding changes how we relate to guilt and fear. Because while we’re talking about the basic fears, we’re also talking about guilt and shame. When you really look at these basic fears and the ultimate fear of not being good enough, it’s the same as shame and guilt, being afraid that you’re not good enough, being ashamed of not being good enough. At the very core, guilt and fear are the same.
(And I’m going to start on guilt in this episode because we will have a lot of time to talk about guilt in future episodes. We do need to talk about guilt, though, because, in 26 years of practice, I’ve witnessed how the guilt––that people feel that they do not even deserve [they don’t even begin to deserve most of the guilt that they feel] ––causes more suffering than anything else in their lives. Guilt is the ultimate basic fear that you’re not good enough. Because it is pervasive and hazardous, we need to decolonize our minds. Then, we need to decolonize our communities. This means taking care of each other and seeing “interdependence” as thriving.)
Thank you so much for listening to this episode, where you learned about:
- The basic fears of rejection, abandonment, and failure
- How to decolonize your mind and your communities (for starters, by deconstructing your unrealistic expectations of yourself!)
- Writing realistic and expanding goals for yourself that are doable, achievable, connecting, and help you thrive.
Thanks for subscribing, commenting, and rating me with five stars on Apple Podcasts. In the next episode, we’ll be covering that dang stigma. So read Chapter 1, Section 7, and I’ll meet you there.