Learned Fears... No More
Fear was instilled in me at a very early age. From my earliest memories of childhood, I was taught that the world was not a safe place, I would be hurt either physically or emotionally, I shouldn’t trust anyone, and to never ever do anything to have to answer to anyone in a position of authority. In other words, avoid people in authority at all costs = fear them.
My first experience in realizing what I had been taught was not necessarily true happened in the 3rd grade. Two boys in my class were horsing around, tormenting me, tugging and pulling at my coat and ripped it. All three of us were sent to the principal’s office one at a time. I was terrified! I wasn’t ever supposed to be in the principal’s office...only “bad” kids go there when they get in trouble.
I remember sitting in the main office trying not to cry, but I was so scared. I had no idea why I was being punished. My young mind only knew to associate authority figures with punishment... spanking, detention, expulsion, all of which I was led to believe were terrible, unforgivable things. I was paralyzed with fear! I felt confused and conflicted because I couldn’t understand why the office secretary was so nice to me since only kids who were in trouble got sent to the office.
Eventually it was my turn. I was shaking and sobbing as I was led into the principal’s office and shown to the chair in front of his desk. There was a big man behind the desk. He had a smile on his face and I remember he had the kindest eyes. He reminded me of my Grandpa. The first words out of his mouth were, “Honey, you don’t need to cry. There’s nothing to be afraid of, you aren’t in trouble. All you need to do is tell me what happened so we can call your mother and explain how your coat was ripped.”
I felt astonishment and disbelief. I had not expected him to be calm nor understanding, let alone nice! He handed me some tissues and talked in soothing tones, calming me down so I could choke out what had happened. True to his word, all he did was scribble something on a piece of paper and then called my mom to explain how my coat was ripped. Relief washed over me, and I felt exhausted like I had just run a long race once I realized I wasn’t in any trouble.
Although my experience in the 3rd grade made me question what I had been taught, I continued to struggle with authority figures. If I was corrected by a teacher, I felt horrendous guilt and shame at doing something wrong and being called out in front of everyone.
I eventually learned it was best if I just kept quiet and did everything everyone told me.
When I was learning to drive, fear gnawed at my insides all of the time. Driving is an important rite of passage, and unlike most teenagers I was petrified! I was so scared I would make a mistake and get in trouble, get a ticket, hauled into jail or worse yet, hurt myself or someone else. I didn’t even want to get my license and waited until my learner’s permit was due to expire.
I was quite literally terrified of being pulled over by a police officer. While logically I knew police were there to protect, I also knew they were there to get the “bad guys” and breaking the law in any way was “bad”! I drove in constant fear of doing something wrong, always checking my mirrors, which isn’t a bad thing; however, I was obsessed with making sure I was doing everything exactly right. If I saw a police cruiser behind me, my heart would start to race and I would begin to feel shaky and lightheaded. I knew this wasn’t rational, but couldn’t seem to stop from experiencing the fear.
The first time I saw those blue lights flashing in my rear-view mirror, my heart hammered against my chest, I started breathing quickly and I was sweating. I just knew this was going to be bad. I didn’t even know why I was being pulled over. The officer asked me if I knew what I had done and I nervously shook my head, and stammered out a “no.” I couldn’t concentrate. My mind was racing, wondering if he would give me a ticket, or if I’d have to get out and face the car while he handcuffed me. I felt little relief when he told me that I did not stop completely at the stop sign and just followed the bus school bus through the intersection. What kind of punishment would be dealt for that offense?
To tell the truth, I couldn’t have told you if I had really rolled through that stop sign or not. I knew I looked both ways, but I was so afraid of what was about to happen I just shook my head yes and said O.K. Imagine my surprise when the officer handed back my license and registration and let me off with a verbal warning to make sure I stopped completely at stop signs. I didn’t get into any trouble! I was dumbfounded and relief washed over me as I sagged in my seat. I thought I was supposed to be afraid of these people! I was still learning what I was taught was not necessarily true.
Unrealistic and unhealthy fear can be unlearned!
In my early 20s, I was hired as an Air Force civilian into the office that makes decisions for and oversees the entire Base. My old friend fear returned with a vengeance at the prospect of dealing with these high-ranking officials. This was an entirely different culture and way of life I had never experienced.
On my first day, my stomach hurt and I was very nervous and shaky. The lowest ranking officer handed me three large binders of regulations and barked at me to read and memorize them by the end of the week. To me, this was a direct order. I went home that night and cried. I was actually afraid I would lose my job if I didn’t get them memorized by the end of the week. Needless to say, my fears were unfounded and after discussing this “order” the next day was assured that I would not lose my job.
My career has given me the opportunity to work side-by-side some very high-ranking individuals. I’ve seen first-hand that even the highest-ranking officials and people in positions of authority are just ordinary people too. In my 40s, I wanted to help others by serving in my community as first a hired, and then an elected official, whom with some of my closest friends ran an entire village government and police department. There are no coincidences… my career and community service were all part of the journey of healing my fear of authority figures.
We tend to label things as “good” or “bad” and it seems like normal human nature to do so. A lot of my life revolved around the negative aspects of not doing “bad” things or being fearful that I was going to do something wrong and be punished for it. Through my journey of peeling back many layers and actually doing the healing self-work of meditation, breathwork, forgiveness, of others and self, as well as, self-care and self-love I began to see a pattern. I saw that the labels cause a reaction and the reaction causes an emotion and the emotion for me was usually fear.
Everything in life is seen through our own filters, learned from others and even passed down generation after generation through our ancestor’s DNA. We make judgements and perceptions about things based on our past experience, programming or both. Instead of labeling things, I now practice seeing things as they are without labels nor judgement involved. It doesn’t always happen immediately, sometimes I feel that nagging bit of fear first, but recognizing and choosing to use the tools I’ve learned to not go down that fear-based path is always a start to freeing myself.
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As far back as she can remember, fear has played a huge role in Lorri DeVore’s life. In learning to accept and embrace change, choosing to step out of her comfort zone time and time again, listening to her Intuition, practicing meditation, and in shifting her view to see fear as an opportunity rather than a threat, Lorri has learned to consciously face and work with her fear. She continues to heal & explore it, as it surfaces, through her writing. Connect with Lorri on Instagram.