[00:00:00] Our decisions create our lives, and when we make decisions from a place that's in our highest good, we will always get to a positive place. Let me explain what that means. When we make decisions out of fear, we are being reactive instead of proactive.
[00:00:24] As I record this, I'm looking at a photo of a wonderful friend of mine who died from cancer. She was one of the kindest, most adventurous humans on the planet. And she was loved by *so* many people. And she also made a lot of decisions, particularly about her relationships, out of fear. She was really afraid to let people get close to her, and so she shut them out. She shut them out right up until the very end. She did not consciously understand that this was what she was doing at the time, but she was really focused on controlling her outcome. And when we make decisions out of the desire to control things, we often end up making decisions out of fear.
[00:01:17] At the end of the day, as awful as this is, making decisions that way did not change her outcome.
[00:01:25] She ended up dying, and the only thing that it changed was her experience while she was alive. We have all heard the cliche, "the only constant in life is change." And my *entire* cancer treatment was spent wrestling with my hatred of change, wrestling with my hatred of uncertainty.
[00:01:58] It felt like a black hole that was going to suck me in and swallow me whole — that's how bad my anxiety was.
[00:02:06] Obviously, I was facing the possibility of dying. So you can understand why I'd have a fair amount of anxiety about that.
[00:02:15] But the truth is, I had *always* had issues with uncertainty and I called myself a "recovering control freak." Looking back, I would not say I was anywhere *near* recovery.
[00:02:32] I mean, almost all of my decisions were made out of fear and anxiety. I spent decades, literally *decades* ignoring my intuition. And that is how I ended up in bad relationships. It's how I ended up with toxic friendships. It's how I ended up staying in jobs that were bad for me. And that's why my illustration business never thrived. It's because I was making decisions that were based out of fear and trying to think long term: "this is how I want to do it and this is how it's going to happen." And really, I didn't have any control over a lot of the things I convinced myself I did.
[00:03:18] I was really detached, honestly, from my own emotions. And because of that detachment, I didn't realize that I was making the vast majority of my decisions *out* of those emotions. The turning point really came for me when I met a woman who suggested that I get more in touch with my feelings by evaluating whether I was feeling mad, bad, sad or glad at any given time.
[00:03:48] This was so hard for me that when she was explaining it to me, I honest to God could not figure out the difference between "sad" and "bad." And I told her that. And she was like, "girl, you have a real problem if you don't know the difference between sad and bad. "Bad" is just like, 'everything sucks. I just feel bad.' And sad is like, 'I feel sad. I want to cry.'"
[00:04:14] And I was like, "oh, I guess I *kind of* get that." I had spent a lot of time being so scared of my feelings that I would just push them down and push them down and push them down, until I no longer even recognized they were there. I think my main fear of those emotions was a fear that if I allowed them — if I felt them — that I would drown in them, and that they would go on forever and I would never get out of them.
[00:04:50] Especially sadness, around the time of my divorce. I just was so sad. Sad about all the things that I was losing because I was getting a divorce. The idea that I had created in my head of the future that I wanted to have . . . When you get a divorce, your whole your whole future is different than what you had imagined. And there's grief involved in that. I was so afraid to feel that grief, because I was afraid I would sink into a depression that would never go away.
[00:05:25] When I talked to this woman, I realized I didn't know the difference between "bad" and "sad" and that the only thing that I could recognize was either I felt bad or I felt glad. It made me realize that I was really disconnected from my emotions, and how much they scared me and how much I looked to other people to tell me what to do, because I was so afraid of experiencing my emotions. I just wanted to be saved from myself. It was a really overwhelming experience for me to try and figure out what the heck I was feeling.
[00:06:08] I got out of this by learning how to identify how I was feeling at any given time. I started to work with my therapist to focus on my body and the sensations of those emotions in my body. So when I found myself feeling really overwhelmed . . . (and for the record, I do still do this. It is a practice and sometimes I'm still not good at it. But eight years down the line, I'm getting better). But when I found myself getting overwhelmed, I would sit quietly and try to experience where the feeling was in my body and like what that feeling felt like. So I felt it in my chest. And when it was in my chest, it felt tight. And when it was in my stomach, it just felt like it was burning. And I imagined it was like this horrible dragon that would jump out and like, freak out. I would come up with these really weird ways to describe how I was feeling in my body.
[00:07:12] And then once I was able to understand those sensations and where they were in my body, it would help me identify the emotion. Sometimes it would straight up lead me to tears, and then I would recognize it was sadness. It really helped me to identify how I was feeling. This is called somatic processing, for the record. The helpful part of this — and what eventually made me less afraid of my emotions — is that those feelings, once I acknowledged to them, went away. I had been really afraid that if I confronted those feelings that they would swallow me, especially if I confronted sadness that I would drown in it and it would never go away. But the reality is, once I confronted those emotions, they would go away and they were no longer holding me hostage. And I could then go on with my life.
[00:08:13] So as I became more in touch with my feelings, which, trust me, does take a lot of practice. I was able to recognize when I was having a strong reaction and then take the time to deal with it. And then from that point, my decisions were made from a place of calm, where I was able to listen to my intuition, which helped me make the choice that was actually in my best interest rather than a reactive decision out of fear.
[00:08:43] And once I started doing that, I found myself making better decisions that ended up putting me in a place where I would feel happier more often.
[00:08:55] My point in sharing the story about my friend who passed away from cancer and had made a lot of decisions out of fear, was at the end she recognized that that was what she had done. And she told me that she was proud of me for being able to let people in.
[00:09:18] So my point in sharing that story is that we all go through things in life where we end up learning lessons and we wish that we had done things differently. And my hope for you is that you can start making decisions from a good place that is in your highest good, and that you can end up in a place that is really authentic to where you want to be, rather than a place that you ended up just because you made a decision after decision after decision out of your fear of your feelings.
[00:10:00] So if this resonates with you, if you do this or you are in recovery from doing this, I would love to hear from you. You can connect with me on Instagram at @mightyandbrightco or on my website, which is mightyandbright.com, thanks so much for listening.
Episode 18: How NOT to Make Decisions Out of Fear
- by Sara Olsher
- 6 min read