A friend keeps telling me about big fears he has of not getting the mortgage paid and being homeless. There’s no danger of that happening. But OCD and reality rarely see eye to eye.
My Biggest Fear is that we will lose our house because we will get too far behind in our mortgage and we will end up homeless.
I even wrote a script that details how it all happens as recommended in my group therapy. The more you read it, the less scared you are supposed to become. So far not working too well.
Ah, yes. The script. I remember doing those. Mine were different, though.
Instead of financial ruin, I focused on what would happen if I got on a plane and the plane went down, or what would happen if I didn’t do a perfect job on a work project, and what would happen if my wife was arguing with me and I actually argued back.
Each script ended pretty much the same: The worst would happen: I’d be vaporized in the plane crash, fired from the job and divorced from the wife.
At some point I stopped. I know that’s the part you want to know about, old friend. Where was the point when I learned to stop thinking in terrifying absolutes?
You want me to help you write a script around that, where only the best of outcomes happen.
But I can’t do that for you.
The uncomfortable fact is that at some critical moments when I could have engaged in the same old behavior, I went a different way. I can’t pinpoint the moments, but I know that all the weekly therapy sessions and careful adjustments of my medication slowly brought me to a point where I could formulate different outcomes.
One day at my then-job, I was asked to do something I didn’t agree with. Exhausted from the people-pleasing game, I just said fuck it and pushed back. You know what happened? The boss made me do it anyway. It was nothing major. The disagreement was over how a story should be angled. But the boss didn’t fire me. And so I pushed back more often.
The more I pushed back, the more comfortable it became for me. I started enjoying my work a lot more.
Arguing with my wife was harder. It still is. I don’t like to push back because I’m afraid I’ll push too hard and knock my marriage over the cliff. But I argue back a lot more than I used to, and you know what? We’re better for it. She didn’t leave, and the danger was never there. If anything, I risked the marriage more by avoiding the difficult conversations at all costs.
As for the planes, I ride them all the time now without incident.
The uncomfortable fact is this: There’s no playbook for facing your fears. At some point, you have the moments of truth and you have to rise to the occasion. And when you do, you won’t realize you’re doing it.
The only way out of hell is through it, the old saying goes. It’s the truth.
If you fear financial ruin, the only way out is through it. That means you have to take a more active role in the family finances and relieve your spouse of some of the tough decisions. If your wife is like mine back when I was at my worst, she sees you as another of her children right now. She has to make all the tough calls because you can’t.
If that’s not a sign to you that you have to get more involved in the decisions, nothing will ever convince you.
But I know you. You’re more of a realist than that. You know you have to face your fears head on. That scares the shit out of you. But once you get started, the fear will get smaller.
Not what you wanted to hear? Oh, well. That’s all I got for you. Nothing is more terrifying. But nothing is more worth it. It doesn’t make sense to hear it, but that’s where I’ve been.
Here’s a tip to get you started. When you’re facing a fear, picture yourself flipping it off, with your fist on fire. Just like this:
It’s better than picturing the fear in front of you in its underwear.