Fear of fears, says I, fear of fears! All things are fear! At least that’s similar to my experience. But why do I fear? Am I afraid to fail? Succeed? Be unliked? Be hated? Be harmed? Be embarrassed? Be killed? For me it’s all of the above. Everyone is shaped by their experiences, but some more than others. I’m on the ‘more than others’ end of the spectrum. For me it became pathological. But what was the cause? Was it an innate mental disorder waiting to be revealed or a series of events that pushed over the bucket of mental stability? Draw your own conclusions, but don’t jump to them. How did I go from being a kid who loved all kinds of sports, meeting new people, going to parties, and exploring new places, to an adult who prefers to spend 98% of his time at home? Well, let’s go back.
As a child, I would act first and think second most of the time. This led to a slew of embarrassing and troubled times. I rarely entertained the possible reason for another person’s feelings before their actions or sometimes for the actions themselves. I usually assumed it was because they had some innate antipathy toward me and could not possibly be in response to my own words and actions. Of course time and maturity started to change this. When I was around 9 or so, my dad set up a device to allow me to practice hitting the baseball in the house. It was a baseball with a hole drilled in it to allow a rope to pass through so it could be suspended from the basement ceiling at waist height. A blanket hanged next to it to allow me to hit the ball into it without damaging anything. However, it wasn’t fool proof. I was practicing with my best friend one time and he accidentally hit the ball with the tip of the bat in a way that caused the ball to hit me in the head. The pain filled me with immediate anger and I yelled at him to leave. I quickly realized what I had done and ran after him to apologize. I was beginning to consider my actions more quickly following them.
Very slowly, the thinking and the acting started to occur closer together. This resulted in fewer fear inducing instances. However, the stakes became higher as I grew up, so each incident carried more weight and affected me more profoundly. I learned that some things I did could never be undone and could have permanent consequences. When I did something wrong as a young child, all I had to do was admit the wrong and apologize and all would be forgiven. Sometimes, it would require a brief, light punishment. I was a child and children don’t know any better. But as an older child and onward, a simple apology was no longer enough to right all wrongs, mend all relationships, and restore complete trust. Sometimes, people rejected apologies and did not forgive. Sometimes, the punishment for treating things or people poorly was very severe. I also had a habit of taking criticism and people’s negative actions toward me very personally. Someone would call me a name and I would stew about it the rest of the day. Bad interactions wounded me more than most other people. This made each fear inducing incident greater in its effect. When I left a job on poor terms, I would feel myself getting irritated each time I had to drive past that place. It could take a couple years for that feeling to cease. Unfortunately, that is a problem that plagues me to this day, but I’ve managed to limit these occurrences.