Dear Jo… January 15, 2015 – Posted in: Advice – Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Since a big relationship break up in 2013 and becoming a freelancer, I’ve been living and working on my own, which has caused problems mentally. I am finding myself being anxious about any kind of ‘relationship’, work/sexual/even just sitting in the same room as people… and the more time I spend away from it, the worse it seems to get. I have to really pluck up courage to do the simplest of tasks – like going to the supermarket – in fear of, well, fear.

I’ve had a lot of counselling over 12 years, but stopped, feeling like I really needed to start doing and stop talking about it all. I’ve done enough naval gazing and began to feel like I was using it as a crutch to avoid the doing, if that makes sense.

I understand what’s going on inside me, but I feel like I’m still at the doorway, waiting (fearfully) for the right moment to start getting on with my life, and a biggie is if I have a set back, the momentum goes and I scurry back in again.

I’ve started listening to Andrew Johnson, an NLP guy who helps you relax and it’s really good. I’m having acupuncture for my physical symptoms, which is also really good. But I wondered if you had any words of wisdom to pass my way for the fear of the fear I have. (Sounds ridiculous!!)

Thanks Jo,


Hi N,

I’ve read and reread your letter several times and this is what stands out for me… “Since a big relationship break up in 2013 and becoming a freelancer, I’ve been living and working on my own, which has caused problems mentally.” What I can’t decipher is whether your problems are a result of spending too much time alone OR whether they are rooted in a heap of negative beliefs you picked up about yourself at the breakup of your significant relationship that are underpinned by a sense that going solo is somehow not OK.

Having just written that last sentence, I’m inclined to think that your beliefs about your situation (that’s it’s ‘bad’) are the root problem and underpin all the anxiety you have about leaving the relative safety of your solitude. You also mention ‘fear of fear’, which is a very real and common phenomenon experienced by those caught in the vicious cycle of anxiety.

So, how to break it?

If we were in a coaching session, the first thing I would want to do is delve into the beliefs you hold about yourself, the significant relationship and your solo setup. You are likely resistant to some part of yourself or your situation, which is causing much of your stress. Acceptance of ‘what is’ is often the most empowering place from which we can start re-building our lives. Usually, people who refer to their problems starting after the breakup of a relationship have fallen into the trap of seeing themselves as a victim of circumstance, and hold onto the belief that if the relationship hadn’t ended, all would be well.

I don’t know if this is you, but if it is I would encourage you to accept that, for whatever reason, the relationship is done, you are living alone and you are responsible for ever-so-gradually getting out there and meeting new people. Nothing in life is guaranteed (aside from death and taxes according to Benjamin Franklin!) so the easiest way to be happy is to accept ‘what is’ today whilst working hard for what we’d like tomorrow. Change is utterly possible but often rides in on the wave of acceptance.

The second thing I’d love to explore with you is fear, which we look at on my course because it’s so pervading! Here are some truths about fear:

* It’s a normal part of life – everyone has it! Honestly, I mean EVERYONE!

* Resistance is futile – acceptance is power

* Experiencing fear means you are growing as a person

* The only way to overcome the fear of doing something is to do it

* Pushing through the fear is less scary than living in permanent dread

Fear has been described as False Evidence Appearing Real, and when it comes to your emotional life, fear is often your fight-or-flight response speaking out of turn. You can learn to challenge this by asking yourself whether you are in actual danger or whether it’s that old irrational fear of fear talking. If it’s the latter then you CAN CHOOSE to overcome it, N. I know it’s hard and I know you believe you can’t, but I know you can. Because if one person can then we all can.

So, ask yourself what you’d like for your social and work situation and write it down. Next write some steps towards making it happen. Then acknowledge what the voice of fear is saying about it and write this down before writing a counter argument to yourself. The last step is to repeat the counter arguments to yourself as you take action towards making a new future for yourself.

You know you need to be less isolated, N. You know it’s not helping you. But, as with everything in life, your thoughts and beliefs about what you are able to achieve are what’s stopping you. So, make a plan and start taking baby steps towards it. Step one was writing to me. What will step two be?

With much love,

Jo x

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