Lesson 6: The Saboteur Within and Your 8 “Complimentary” Fears

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

So, why would your Saboteur use your deepest fears against you? Why “sabotage” you at all? Well, it might help if we take a look at your 8 Complimentary Fears and see, specifically, how your unconscious mind uses fears to keep you safe, even if it’s not necessarily the best thing for you.

What is a “complimentary” fear? Well, there will always be natural fear and mind fear; those two “base fears” are non-negotiable. However, modern times have added new and complex layers of fear to our lives, things our prehistoric ancestors didn’t have to worry about, like the fear of success or the fear of failure. I call these complementary fears because they are “layered” onto our typical mind fears and further hinder us from achieving our true identities.

What’s more, The Saboteur Within has adapted and folded these fears into new and revolutionary ways to “protect” us while, at the same time, sabotaging our true selves. Beware these 8 complimentary fears, and learn to spot them at first glance so you can overcome them before they overtake you:

Complimentary Fear # 1: The Fear of Success

“Procrastination is the fear of success.” – Denis Waitley

What are you prepared to lose?

For you, success means fulfillment, contentment, happiness and pride. But for your unconscious mind, success means that one spectre it’s charged with avoiding at all times and at all costs: change!

So, how does The Fear of Success work? Well, in order for your Saboteur to scare the “bejesus” out of you, it will run a series of movies inside your mind showing you many examples of how you will fail to retain your success once you have achieved it.

It’s a little like playing “king of the hill.” According to the Saboteur Within, the minute you get to the top, someone – maybe even yourself – or something will find a way to knock you back down the hill again. Hence it will flood your mind with images of how you will fail to handle the extra responsibility or additional attention that accompanies your success.

Just as your success motivated you to reach the top, the fear of staying there will become a preoccupation; thanks to the unconscious mind. In order that you may remain “safe” in your carefully constructed world, your Saboteur may convince you so strongly of your inability to handle success that you don’t even try to attain your goal in the first place.

Whether it’s a new relationship, a job, losing weight, deciding to study and get a better education or whatever your definition of success might be, thanks to the Fear of Success you might be too afraid to reach for your own dreams.

The inevitable result? Sadly, the Fear of Success can force you to let these wonderful chances slip through your fingers. If you succumb to the Fear of Success, you will lead an unfulfilled existence, as your Saboteur convinces you that under-achieving is the safe, comfortable and stress free way to be, why put yourself to all of that trouble and worry when you are unlikely to succeed, you won’t be able to handle it, or people will think you have got above yourself. 

These are the type of messages and internal arguments your Saboteur will use against your conscious mind to keep you within the safe and predictable confines of your comfort zone.

When Susan came to my office that day in January, she was desperate to resolve her “sabotaging ways,” as she put it. Susan’s presenting problem was that she had had several careers during her working life, none of which had made her wealthy, stating that she “always had enough, but never more than enough” and all of her careers had systematically ended when she was offered promotions and much greater financial rewards. In other words, whenever she was given the opportunity to be successful, she would screw it up!

Now, here she was at age fifty-five, divorced and determined that she could make good. Susan’s urgency for the session was because she had been offered a “get rich quick” scam – I mean, scheme (honest!) – she had found it on the internet and the promise that was being made by their sales pitch was that this scheme would deliver abundance, security and, ultimately, “More than enough.” The problem was, as she saw it, “her Saboteur was talking her out of this plan she had, to become successful.”

This seemed the most opportune time for her as her company was offering her another promotion, with all the usual trappings. Susan had been there many times before and she wasn’t about to screw up yet another promotion. This time she wanted to break loose of the vicious circle she believed that she was trapped inside, take a risk and reap the rewards promised by the scheme/scam. There was no way that Susan was going to prevent herself from having financial abundance and happiness this time!

“Now to fund the scheme,” Susan explained. “Rather than accept the promotion that is on offer, I can take voluntary redundancy from my job, and that will give me the cash lump sum I need to buy into the scheme. I don’t mind leaving as I am being pressured into taking this promotion and I’m really reluctant to do that because I will be required to study for an additional qualification which will mean putting my life on hold for six months while I take the exams that are necessary, and I want everything now!”

I pieced together Susan’s life beginning with her family. She was the youngest of six children; she had passed her “11-plus,” which allowed her free entry to private education, where in her final year she flunked out of school. I will get deeper into the unconscious patterns another time but for now let’s simply say that Susan was afraid of being successful because she thought that she would be an outsider, to the rest of her family, the odd one out with the spotlight clearly shining on her and highlighting the fact that she was ‘different’.

You see, when Susan flunked out of school it was because being one of six kids, and suddenly propelled out of her home environment, she never felt that her family were behind her. Yes, when she first got her scholarship it was exciting and everybody talked about it, when it was news, but now, four years on, Susan was fast becoming a “cuckoo”  in not only her school, but also her family’s nest, it seemed, that she didn’t feel at home in either place.

Her Saboteur mounted a double pronged attack. In order that Susan could remain within the status quo of her family, where nobody had excelled academically in the past, her personal Saboteur Within filled her mind full of thoughts, like, “Who do you think you are?”, “Nobody likes a clever clogs!”, “You talk too posh”, “You’re not one of us anymore!” and on and on, making Susan feel out of place in her own home. Whilst at school, the posh, fee paying students made fun of her less than posh accent and made cruel remarks about the part of town that she lived in.

Eventually, Susan cracked under the pressure of feeling like a cuckoo in her family’s nest and she quit the school, as success meant that she would remain an outcast.

“So Susan, here we are,” I finally said to her. “Forty years on, only six months and one exam to allow you to be successful and have financial freedom.”

Susan nodded uncertainly before I added, “Or, we work on what you’ve asked me to and I encourage you to throw it all away and gamble your hard earned savings and your redundancy payment on a scheme that, if it fails, leaves you jobless and broke! It sounds to me like your Saboteur has brought you here to continue an old pattern.”

Susan’s face was crestfallen; she’d never heard it put in such blunt terms before!

“Let’s examine the two scenarios in front of you,” I said calmly. “In the first one you gain financial freedom and status, which will allow you extra cash to put into schemes, yes?”

Susan nodded.

“And the second will have your whole family talking about you and worrying as they have done many times before, hmmm! It sounds like there is a Saboteur at work somewhere,” I smiled.

Susan took a deep breath and admitted, “The truth is, I’ve taken that exam three times and failed every time! I don’t know what it is! I can do the job standing on my head, all of the other exams to get me to this level I got straight A’s but this one… I just go blank when I sit down to take it.”

After her confession, Susan sighed heavily.

I told Susan about Jonathan Livingston Seagull, how even as a seagull he had ambition and how his flock was very uncomfortable with his dreams and aspirations. In order to achieve his goals and fulfill his true potential, he had to overcome the worries and concerns that his friends and family raised not only in an effort to keep him safe from, but also trying to ensure he didn’t show them up to be lacking in courage and imagination. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a terrific book by Richard Bach, it is packed full of wisdom and will only take you a couple of hours to read.

Then, in layman’s terms, I explained that the Saboteur was preventing Susan from getting what she wanted because it would mean that she was successful. The status that went with it would change this duckling into a swan and her Saboteur had filled her mind full of thoughts that boiled down to, “You’re not worthy!”

Tears welled in Susan’s eyes as she stared off into space, running through all of her past examples, where the finishing line was within her grasp and she failed to take the final steps.

Susan was a smart woman and she sat there open mouthed as the realisation of how her Saboteur had been playing her, her whole life long, but not this day. Her lips came together with a resolute pout and a solid determination concretised her as she said, “Today is the day that I turn my life around!”

As we worked through the coming months, with her fear of success long gone, Susan effortlessly passed her exam and was very comfortable with her new company director status.



Complimentary Fear # 2: The Fear of Failure

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

– Author unknown

We have all been stung by failure. Be it in a job search, a spurned romance or a rejection of any sort. Few things hurt like a resounding failure but unfortunately, failure is a part of life; particularly a part of modern life.

To our prehistoric ancestors, of course, failure meant not eating dinner. For us, failure could mean foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, being alone, being overweight… even homelessness. Yet the more we fear failure, the more we stop trying to do things we might fail at in the first place.

This becomes like a Catch-22 of fears as you cling to a rigid timetable and routine, terrified of ever putting a wrong foot on your life’s journey lest you might wind up in the poorhouse – or with NO house. The Saboteur whispers to you and reminds you of your past failures which, in turn, will prevent you from making decisions as – reminds the Saboteur – “you will probably make bad ones anyway.”

The Catch-22 comes from the fact that you fear failure so much, you actually welcome failure. In other words, you are actually failing by virtue of not allowing yourself to fail.

Consider Frank’s story. Frank was a high-flying club promoter who lived the high life for nearly a decade. He drove exotic cars, went to the best clubs, brought along his rich, fancy, influential friends and made incredible amounts of money to basically party all night. Frank used to boast that “wine, women and song” were part of his job description!

Then someone told him he wouldn’t be clubbing forever; that he should make a few wise investment decisions before he lost his hair. He listened, and invested in several commercial buildings; right before the real estate bubble burst. Frank lost everything; the cars, the high-rise apartment, the trappings, the friends… the lot.

But what Frank lost most was his self-confidence. He became so afraid of failure; he couldn’t even continue to do his job. He never again thought he’d make that same kind of money, so he quit even trying. He looked up a former client and secured a job as a bartender, preferring to work at an unambitious job, for a steady paycheck rather than ever risk the type of overexposure that had put him at risk in the first place.

The sad thing is, Frank “failed” (more like the economy failed) in a field completely outside of his own. But fear is repeatable; Frank felt if he could fail so badly in real estate, then what was to prevent him from failing in club promoting as well? A failure is a failure, regardless of the line of work he’s in… right?

The antidote to this fear is to use logic; There is no such thing as failure; all you ever get is feedback!

So, if you’re walking along the road and you trip, the failure is in not seeing the obstacle that you tripped over, whilst, the feedback is to make sure you look where you are going.

“From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.”


Complimentary Fear # 3: The Fear of Rejection

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” – Richard Bach

If you touch a hot stove burner once, chances are you’ll never do it again. If you cut your foot on a piece of broken glass in the kitchen, chances are you’ll wear shoes until all the broken pieces are found and disposed of.

So what happens when you approach an attractive person to ask for a date… only to get turned down? Will you ever do it again? For many people, unfortunately, the answer is “no.”

This fear is a spin off from The Fear of Failure as it, too, is a painful Catch 22. Your Saboteur will convince you that you can never be accepted by anyone, and to even think that you might, will only leave you hurt and humiliated.

And so, according to the Saboteur, the best way to live a pain-free life is to never approach anyone and always reject any offers of friendship as you will become fond of them and, no doubt, they will reject you at some point in the future anyway, and that will hurt even more!

If your Saboteur has convinced you of this, then you will appear very aloof to others and people will be able to feel the temperature drop around you. Brrrrr! You will appear as a very cold person, and yet the warmth of a serious, committed relationship is the very thing that you crave. If you fear committing to others, you won’t just be hurting them but yourself as well.

Much like the Fear of Failure, the Fear of Rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You fail because you don’t try, and you don’t get rejected because you don’t try. Yet inherent in never being rejected is never creating relationships where you might get rejected, hence living a lonely, isolated and solitary life.

And who wants that? Kim didn’t; she hated getting rejected – hated it! So instead of getting rejected, she became aloof, distant and unapproachable. She made sure to always do the rejecting before anybody else could possibly, potentially reject her. Over time, she found the easiest way to reject others before they rejected her was to simply avoid people altogether.

Even at work, with people she saw every day, she would appear cold and distant; unapproachable. Those who dared approach her would get a helping of sarcasm, followed by irony topped off with condescension; they quickly learned never to do that again! The sad thing is, Kim wanted to be loved; and she had a lot of love to give.

Underneath that brittle exterior was a person so vulnerable she simply couldn’t stand to be rejected anymore; hence her “reject first, hurt less” attitude. One mourns for the life she could have had; the fulfilling relationships she missed out on because of her fear of rejection.



Complimentary Fear # 4: The Fear of Not Being Liked

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

The Fear of Not Being Liked is yet another Catch-22 syndrome. You go out of your way to be liked, only to find yourself unconsciously alienating those you want to like you the most!

The Fear of Not Being Liked sets in when the Saboteur convinces you that you must keep everybody happy so that they will all “like” you. The result is that you will imagine what will make others happy and act as if what you imagined is real for the other person. All the while, that person has no knowledge of what you have decided they want or need so your actions can result is some unexpected and unwanted reactions.

You will apologise for everything in advance so as to maintain – or gain – approval. In the end, this will often turn you into a needy and most unlikable person, giving you the opposite result of what you wanted to achieve.

James was suffering with this problem when he came to me for coaching. His wife had basically forced him into having some development sessions with me because their relationship was going through a rocky patch.

James was a smart, well-mannered and well-spoken gentleman. I could best describe him as a Labrador. Just in case you don’t know what I mean it’s very simple; a Labrador is a breed of dog that is loyal, faithful and does what it’s told!

James was working ridiculously long hours for his employers and he was just unable to say no to them. We worked on the fact that when he said yes to them, in effect, he said no to his wife and children. James knew this was the case and it made him feel bad but he kept on doing it. His employer certainly wasn’t going to call a halt to this procedure; after all, they were getting extra work done and not having to pay anything extra. James clearly understood the logic of this and was well aware how upset his wife was about it but still the Saboteur continued to have him say yes, to his company.

This is very a common problem for many people so here is a common answer. I coach people through this scenario regularly.

When you are asked to do something that you don’t want to do but saying “No” is too scary for you, say “No, not at the moment but if things change I’ll come back to you” or any sentence that you can come up with that contains that same theme.

By using this approach, you are practicing saying “no” without the need for feeling bad, it’s really neat and you can start using it straight away!

Remember, you can please:

Some of the people, all of the time.

All of the people, some of the time.

But you can’t please:

All of the people; all of the time.

Instead, give yourself – and others – a break by just being yourself. Don’t run down your self-worth by being a 100% people pleaser, 100% of the time.

All you can do is your best, and trust that others will love you for it. To further illustrate this Thomas A. Harris, did an excellent job in his book “I’m OK – You’re OK.”


Four Life Positions

The phrase I’m OK, You’re OK is one of four “life positions” that each of us may take. The four positions are:

  • I’m Not OK, You’re OK
  • I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK
  • I’m OK, You’re Not OK
  • I’m OK, You’re OK

The statements are self explanatory, principally in any relationship we are looking for “I’m OK, You’re OK.” A lot of relationships limp along in step 1, 2 or 3, leading to all sorts of human conditions. The 4th position allows both people within the relationship to grow, develop, nurture and encourage one another.




Complimentary Fear # 5: The Fear of Loss

“Nothing can ever be truly lost, merely transformed.”

The Saboteur does a really good job with this particular fear. If this is one of the layers that your Saboteur has created, you will be convinced that everything in the universe is measured out and, what’s more, everything is in extremely short supply. Therefore, you will have the feeling that there “Isn’t enough, love, happiness, compassion, money, well-being, laughter, employment, education, etc, etc, etc, and finish the sentence with… in the world.”

Your Saboteur will have you so convinced that you won’t buy expensive things as it would be too painful if you were to lose them. Heaven forbid that you should ever even consider falling in love because your loved one would die eventually and leave you alone, so you sabotage your relationships right at the beginning before they amount to any value. This is yet another paradox as you lose the chance to love and to be loved by fearing the loss.

One extreme symptom of the fear of loss is hoarding. Brian was once a happy family man who lost his job thanks to an injury and quickly snowballed into losing everything; his family, his home, his car, his football card collection – all of it.

While he eventually got back on his feet and found a new job – and a little house that he could afford – Brian never forgot the pain of that loss.

He spent every extra penny he had – and many he didn’t – on things. It didn’t matter what; he never wanted to run out again. Soap, detergent, canned peaches, three of his favorite style of shirt and ANYTHING on sale!

It soon got so bad he could barely walk through his house, so he rented a storage space – and quickly filled that with things. Unfortunately, his hoarding got so out of control that when a neighbour called round with a parcel for him and saw how he was living, they called in the city council. They made many attempts to persuade him to clear the rubbish from his house or at least allow them in to do so, he would not co-operate so they ended up fining him £10 a day for every day his home was uninhabitable.

He eventually lost his home – and his possessions – and had to live in his storage shed, which naturally had to be cleared out to make room for him. In the end, he lost everything – again; but only because of his deep Fear of Loss!


Complimentary Fear # 6: The Fear of Helplessness

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” – Karl Augustus Menninger

People who experience The Fear of Helplessness know that the Saboteur Within exists, so they become obsessive about control in their life, thinking that this will give them ultimate power. They can’t ever relax, not even for a moment, because if they do their world will come crashing down around them and they won’t be able to put the pieces back together again.

If this is the fear that keeps you locked in, everything is measured within your world; you have your days planned out for months in advance. Friday is fish night; sex is on Sunday morning between 8 and 9 am. All things are measured to within an inch of their lives and let there be no spontaneity because that comes from unpredictability and ultimately leads to chaos!

Paradoxically, the Saboteur is actually fuelling the fear so the individual tries to close their life down into systems and measurements, believing all the while that this will calm the fear. But guess what? This only magnifies it!

Remember “Barbara” from Rule # 7 of the Saboteur Within: The More You Do It, The Easier “It” Gets? Barbara had been terrified when she was thrown in the water as a young child and remembered the experience as making her feel very pained, very exposed, very… helpless. As a result, she wished at all costs to avoid appearing helpless – ever again.

Here she was, at a beautiful resort, enjoying her family by the pool but never enjoying the actual experience of being in the pool with her children for fear of being helpless. By avoiding one emotion, she was shutting off her entire world; and shutting out those she loved by not fully involving herself with them and all of their activities.

The people who experience this very damaging fear, eventually end up helpless, as their struggle to keep life, chaos and infinite possibilities out of their world can be totally exhausting, This can lead to a sense of futility about their lives and, ultimately, becoming a fear that prevents them from ever relinquishing control. If you were to stand up for a moment and place a small coin between your butt cheeks, pull your cheeks tightly together and hold on to the coin. You will now have a sense of how it is for this person and they are doing it twenty four hours a day, seven days a week!!!


Complimentary Fear # 7: The Fear of Separation

”Be true to your heart and the person in the mirror, then you can never be alone” – M. Hudson

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Matt, I’m an adult. This fear is surely for a child, isn’t it?” The answer, sadly, is “No.”

Why?

Because the Saboteur will convince you that your world will end if you let that special someone out of your sight. You will define your life by being a part of them. Without them, you will rationalise, you cannot be a whole person.

Cinderella’s father is a good example of this. When his first wife died he felt lost and worthless. Suddenly, enter the new wife and bam! He feels whole again and is blinded to the pain and anguish that his daughter has to live through as a result of her wicked stepmother and ugly sisters.

Despite the pain to others, your Saboteur will convince you that you need this person in order for you to exist. Therefore, you will reject your family and friends in order to survive. How? By letting this single person dominate your entire existence, all due to the Fear of Separation.

In reality your fear is yet another Catch-22 as the tighter you “squeeze” the other person, the greater the probability is that you will choke the life out of your relationship and separation will ensue (and all because of your claustrophobic actions). In the Charles Dickens Novel Oliver, Nancy had this fear with her partner Bill Sykes and the result is there for all to see.

The Saboteur may go so far as to close down your health and well-being, causing you to become weak and frail. The upside is that you get to place your loved ones in shackles, so that they can’t wander off!

Susan fell in love with Ron at first site. He was everything that she needed in a man: tall, dark and handsome. Oh! I forgot to mention he was also… married with children!!! This didn’t stop Susan from hanging around Ron at work all day. Eventually, one day the short “hellos” developed into coffees and lunch. Ron was a flirt with a twinkle in his eye and very soon broke his wedding vows. Susan made it her business to tell Ron’s wife, who promptly showed him the door. Ron moved in with Susan and all was well in that house… but not for long.

After a few months of living together, the Saboteur eventually begins to whisper to Susan, “He will leave you on your own.” To safeguard herself, Susan falls pregnant and all was well but whilst pregnant Susan lost her curvy shape and that brought about a deeper fear…… did I mention Ron’s twinkling eyes? Susan was worried that he would be off with the next young woman, the same way she had caught him. What to do? What to do?

Susan thought that if she could keep Ron at home, then no woman could ever steal him away. The only problem was she couldn’t very well say out loud, “You’re not allowed out,” because that might make him run. No, that wouldn’t do at all. The plan needed to be subtle. So subtle in fact, that Susan could never have come up with it without the help from the Saboteur Within.

Her Saboteur’s plan was foolproof, to begin slowly, gently, piece by piece delivering excruciating pain. Just a little twinge at first, needing to take a few painkillers and lie down here and there, but very soon, Susan would be so unwell that Ron would be unable to wander off out for a drink with his friends. Meanwhile the Saboteur continued to whisper, more loudly and more frequently, “He’ll leave you! He’ll abandon you!” Susan’s pains grew worse and worse and Ron’s leash got tighter and tighter. Finally, unable to stray, his eyes became lifeless as little by little the sparkle was extinguished.

At the time of our meeting, Susan had four children to Ron and was on a maximum dose of painkillers. After many, many hospital visits and talks with physicians, no cause could be found for her pain, nor could they prescribe medication to bring her relief. By now Ron, too, was on medication; anti-depressants, an attempt to try and bring back the sparkle to his now dead eyes.

Susan presented as a pain client and as we explored her story through a few sessions, we worked on the secret guilt that Susan had about stealing another woman’s husband; the torment of life’s boomerang coming back to bite her. As we alleviated these issues bit by bit, Susan was able to let go of her fear of separation. As the fear ebbed away, the pain diminished and the Saboteur was re-deployed to support Susan in getting slimmer, fitter and healthier.

Two years on Susan and Ron have a whole new dynamic within their relationship and Susan lights up the twinkle in Ron’s eyes without the need of a pharmacist.

The fear of separation doesn’t just take root in romantic relationships; Brenda was an example of how this fear can take root in all sorts of areas of our lives. At the age of 47, she was living with her five sons, their partners and even her mother had moved in when her father had passed away.

Recently, Brenda’s husband, Trevor, left after 27 years of devoted marriage, saying he was “worn out.” Suddenly, Brenda sat like a spider in the centre of a huge web, woven from emotions, anxiety and fear. Nobody moved without Brenda knowing and nobody did anything to upset Mum.

The fear that ran through Brenda rubbed off on her sons who, although grown men, were still treated like little boys, causing friction and tension with their female partners who, quite rightly, wanted to be in a relationship with a grown man and not a child still tied to his mother’s apron strings. Brenda was consistently clipping the wings of her children by telling them that she only wanted what was best for them and when she felt really comfortable and confident with them flying the nest, then – and only then – they could leave home.

Secretly, the Saboteur Within Brenda was sabotaging the future of the whole family in order to maintain the status quo. Wanting to remain forever comfortable, with her fear of separation forming, her emotional “spider web” that, just like the real thing, tangled her precious treasures tighter if ever they tried to make a bid for freedom.


Complimentary Fear # 8: The Fear of Vulnerability

“To fear vulnerability is to fear the consequence of truth” – M. Hudson

Have you ever heard the saying, “His bark is worse than his bite?” Chances are the originator of that saying had Fear # 8: The Fear of Vulnerability. In other words, those who bark the loudest are often the most insecure, the most scared and the most vulnerable.

Your Saboteur uses The Fear of Vulnerability against you to prevent you from being rejected. Most people who endure the Fear of Vulnerability have very low self-worth and to mask this with behaviours that can look just like the opposite is true, your Saboteur will ensure that you appear “tough” and “arrogant” to the outside world.

Stuart was a very good example of this particular type of complimentary fear. He was 65 years old when we first met and he was a very, very angry man. Stuart had suffered a heart attack and a quadruple bypass at age 40, and as he walked into my office that first day I was immediately able to sense the tension which, I commented, “Came into the room with him.”

It took several sparring sessions with Stuart before we finally managed to get to the heart of his fear of vulnerability. His presenting problem was an undiagnosed choking feeling that he said was “with him constantly.” I felt that this tough guy needed to see that I too was a tough guy who had found a better way of coping with life before we could have a chance of doing any real work. You see as a coach/therapist/trainer you have to be prepared to flex and take on many roles, much like an actor and if I was to help Stuart in getting to his outcome it would be an easier path for him to follow if he could clearly see that I had walked that route first.

It transpired that Stuart had never had a good relationship with his father, who, according to Stuart, had never shown affection to him. Little Stuart learnt very quickly from his relationship with his father that, “You are on your own in this life and no one will look after you but yourself!” This mindset was to set the tone for a lifetime of fighting, arguing, arrogance, isolation, remorselessness and anger – one of the seven mortal sins – that continued to block Stuart’s spiritual development.

The Saboteur worked relentlessly inside, causing Stuart to attack anything that even remotely looked like friendship. At school he became a bully and created lots of problems for anyone who tried to get close to him.

All the while he was pushing people away, Stuart secretly wanted affection; he longed to be held and loved by his own father. The fire would rage inside him and be fueled relentlessly by the Saboteur for many years to come. Not one tear would he shed, for any one, even upon the death of his father. “Good riddance!” cried the Saboteur as the feelings of that day only sought to pour petrol onto the bonfire of ire which was Stuart’s “daily bread.”

I had to be careful here; discretion and subtlety needed to be my closest allies. To have told Stuart in our very first meeting that his fear of vulnerability had contributed to his heart attack would have alerted his Saboteur and sent him running out the door.

So, step by step and inch by inch, I offered rational, irrefutable logic, which built the bridge between us. For example, I would talk about the vast research that has been done to correlate anger and heart attacks, strokes and poor respiratory health.

For example, Harvard Medical School, in one study of 1,305 men, found that angry men were three times more likely to develop heart disease than calm ones. Stuart was able to see that there was sound science behind the information I was giving him and, as our trust began to forge more strongly, he became more and more comfortable with himself and the world around him.

His wife reported back that she had at last, after forty years, got to be with the man that she always knew he could be and, some two years later, Stuart has been able to engage with his own spiritual awareness, appreciating the strength and courage behind making himself at ease with vulnerability.

Up to this point in time The Saboteur had worked uncompromisingly to support Stuart’s fear of vulnerability. Imagine, if you will, every friendship offered to you scorned and love thrown aside like a used tissue. Luckily, we were able to meet and I was able to cajole Stuart along this leg of his own personal journey.

Anger, denial and bullying may keep your secret safe for so long, and your Saboteur will maintain this rigid stance for you. All at the expense of being flexible and opening yourself up to love.

Ultimately you are loveable, although the rumors within your mind would have you believe otherwise. And others will rarely know how lovable you are behind that angry, hostile exterior because you spend your entire life pushing them away, and all to avoid any situation or relationship that could bring you anywhere close to vulnerability.


Parting Words About Your 8 Complimentary Fears

Beware these complimentary fears when you begin seeing the signs. These are very, very common fears that most of my clients present with at least one of them; no doubt you were nodding your head here and there as you read through them.

Maybe you can relate to one or two of the above fears, maybe more – maybe all. It’s not how many complimentary fears you can rack up, but how many you can identify and, therefore, conquer.


Exercise 9: The Basis of Fear

  • Think about something that you are afraid of.
  • Form a statement of your fear and write it down.
  • “I am afraid of ________ because ________.
  • Ask your friend to help you in digging for your many meanings.
  • Sit back close your eyes and allow yourself to imagine being somewhere that is both fun and relaxing.
  • Whilst you are in this wonderful state of mind  have your friend  repeat the meanings back to you, quietly.
  • See your fears way off at a distance, as though you are watching an old black and white movie.
  • Continue this for approximately 20 minutes.
  • The key is in how relaxed you can become and how much fun you can allow yourself to imagine!!!
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