Stage Fear Answers

Why am I being paranoid

Dear Elisse,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Fear of loss is what I might think about when it comes to anxiety in relation to loss or change, especially failures. We are scared of losing the ones that we love, losing our health, losing what we treasure, losing our relationships, losing our success and potential. Being scared of losing make us feel anxious and often we would act impulsively on these fear.   "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live." ~Norman Cousins   Of all the things that scare us, the loss can seem like the most terrifying. At times, I've thought about it with such dread that it's felt overwhelming.   Whenever I quit a job I hated in that past, I felt stuck between two loss-related fears: the fear of losing my passion by staying, and the fear of losing my financial security if I walked away and didn't find something else.   Whenever I considered leaving a bad relationship, I felt paralyzed by two similar fears: the fear of losing my chance at fulfillment by staying, and the fear of losing the comfort of companionship if I walked away and didn't find someone else.   I haven't only worried about the potential for loss as it pertains to big decisions. I've worried about losing people I love, pleasures I enjoy, and circumstances that feel comfortable. I've dreaded losing my youth, my health, and my sense of identity.   And then there are the everyday losses: If I don't do this, will I lose someone's respect? If I don't do that, will I lose my own? If I don't go, will I lose some of yet unknown opportunities? If I don't stay, will I lose my sense of comfort and security?   I might even go so far as to say that whenever I fear something, loss is at the root of it. I suspect I'm not alone.   We buy things we don't need (or groupons we won't use) because a sale's ending soon. We grab an item of clothing because there's only one left and someone else might take it-even if we aren't really sure we want it. We keep gym memberships we aren't actively using if we know we won't be able to get that same rate again.   And then there are the bigger things.   We turn down opportunities that could be rewarding to avoid the risk of losing something else that feels good enough. We use our time in ways that feel unfulfilling because we fear losing time on a decision that might be wrong. And we fail to invest in ourselves, even though we're aching to expand, because it can feel painful to part with our money.   We can't ever know for certain that a risk will payoff, but we can choose to recognize when the fear of loss motivates our actions, and make a conscious effort to overcome it. If we don't, it can severely limit our potential for growth, happiness, and fulfillment.   Overcoming the Fear of Loss   I first recognized this fear, and it's associated irrational thoughts and behaviors, when I felt devastated after someone I wanted to break up with broke up with me first.   I realized I didn't make the decision myself because I preferred a bad (even abusive) relationship to being single. I also understood that I would have been far less affected if I'd made the choice to walk away, and that my feelings completely transformed because I felt out of control-like I lost something, and it wasn't my choice.   Since then, I've developed a little system for identifying this fear when it takes hold-and a few practices for overcoming it so that it doesn't overcome me.   1. Ask yourself, "What am I scared of losing?"   This may seem like an obvious question, but I've learned that it's all too easy to go through our days, making choices, without recognizing the underlying feelings that motivate them.   Whenever you have a choice to make, recognize in what way you're motivated by the fear of losing something, whether it's comfort, security, control, money, companionship, or something else.   Once you understand what you're scared of losing, you can…   2. Ascertain if you're seeing the whole picture.   There was a time when I worked 60+ hours/week to hold onto a job I didn't even want. I was the last remaining employee after a massive layoff, but I didn't feel ready to lose that job.   After several months of working long hours from home, I realized I'd never feel ready. It wasn't until I finally got laid off that I started planning for this site.   My logic was faulty-that it was best to stay with the sure thing, because I wasn't ready to do something else-because the reality was that I needed the time and space to figure out that something else.   In other words, loss was necessary to set me up for gain; it wasn't the other way around.   If you're making a decision, or avoiding making a decision, based on the fear of what you might lose, ask yourself if you're losing more by not doing what you really want to do.   When you attempt to see beyond the fear, you're better able to recognize if you're keeping yourself stuck-and if you'd benefit from letting go of what you think you need.   3. Use loss aversion as motivation to pursue what you really want.   My mentor once suggested that we can benefit from the fear of loss by charting our progress toward a goal. Just as we don't want to lose time and money, we don't want to lose momentum.   If you hang a large calendar on your wall, and put a star on every day when you do something positive-like exercise, practice a new hobby, or send out a resume for a new job-you'll create a psychological need to keep that streak going.   She said to me, "Your disappointment in seeing a day without a gold star is greater than your happiness at any single day's work."   Of course, you have to know what you really want first. That takes time and patience for us to reflect and think with our imagination, not logics.   4. Regularly assess your intentions and motivations.   This ties into the last one. Sometimes we think we want something because we've wanted it for years-and then we feel scared to lose that dream and all its related rewards.   But sometimes, as we grow and learn about ourselves and the world, our wants change.   A friend of mine racked up massive debt studying law, only to realize a couple years into her career that it didn't fulfill her as she hoped it would. She'd built her whole life around this possibility-and she had close to $100,000 in student loans.   She could easily have felt stuck, as if she'd lose too much if she walked away. But she did anyways. She moved to Chile and became a Pilates teacher, and though she ultimately realized she'd need to return to law for a while longer to pay off her debt, she's released the emotional fears associated with pursuing a different path.   And because she's experienced the joy of doing something else, she now has a compelling motivation to do it again: She knows what she stands to gain is greater than what she stands to lose.   If you're forcing yourself to do something and a part of you feels it isn't right, ask yourself, "Do I actually want this right now?" There's a chance you do, and you're just feeling frustrated and discouraged-but there's also a chance you don't anymore. Only you can know for sure what you really want.   5. Change how you see the inevitability of loss.   The reality is that loss is inevitable.   We will all lose relationships, situations, and states of being that we enjoy and love. Even if we practice non-attachment, on some level we will get comfortable with people and circumstances.   You could say that this is what makes life beautiful and meaningful-since nothing lasts forever, each moment presents unique possibilities worth fully appreciating and savoring.   Or you could say this is what makes life tragic-that everything is fleeting, and eventually it all slips away.   How we choose to see things dictates how we'll experience them. Would you rather see everything as precious or pointless?   If we can choose the former, we can recognize that every loss provides opportunities for future gains-new relationships, experiences, and ways of being that may fulfill us in ways we can't possibly predict.   Of course, this can only happen if we trust in our ability to recognize and create these new connections and situations. We all have the potential to do it.   Some losses feel devastating when we experience them-and sometimes, the gain isn't proportionate to the loss.   But somehow, we survive in the wake of almost every storm. Whether we thrive is up to us. That's a choice we need to make proactively, not in response to what we fear, but in response to what we genuinely want to feel and do in this life.   So I leave you with this question: Why are you afraid of losing? And are you ready to trust in yourself and your abilities so that you can get unstuck?   The answer could be no to this question. It is absolutely acceptable to acknowledge our fears and be honest with ourselves if we don’t feel ready to change. We are all humans and that means we have a right to not be perfect. There is no judgement. We are all in this together.   Looking forward to learn your thoughts, thank you for your trust. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I stop creating imaginary scenarios to stress about? I am starting to cause myself some bad paranoia.

This is a good start towards your healing for sure! You are already aware enough that you can call these thoughts 'imaginary'. Of course, incidents, have, negative events from childhood play a huge role in how we see the world (our beliefs) in adulthood. Sounds like those messages from your past are guiding your future. You are not defined by the pain they caused, but you are defined by what you allow the pain to turn you into (bitter, eroding your joy, difficult to get along with, etc.) These things certainly keep you from living a happy, healthy, meaningful life. Sometimes you might even wonder when is this going to be over? What you truly asking is when will my life go back to normal? The truth is you can't unmake the past whatever you went through has changed you in some way for better or worse. But of course, you can decide this. There's no way you'll un-see what you've seen or un-know what you know. When one thing changes, everything changes. Your focus has to change instead to what you have gained from those experiences (as difficult as they were). I know.....you're probably thinking, "nothing!" But without even knowing you, I would imagine that you learned to be resourceful in many ways to be able to get through those rough times. You probably have gained a lot of 'grit' that you might not have any other way. You. Might find it helpful to the journal. I know this sounds cliche, but being able to get your thoughts out of your mind and outside of you on paper might be helpful. You can begin to identify feelings that may underlie the paranoia such as inferiority, shame, humiliation, rejection Etc. Think about what are some of your core beliefs about others being trustworthy or untrustworthy and malicious. What does your inner critic say about people in general? Consider if you can disprove this belief by thinking of people who were trustworthy and were kind every time or even most of the time. Identify people who have come through for you and were genuine. You may begin to stop ruminating and rehearsing old wounds. There is generally nothing to be gained from this because it puts the focus on what went wrong rather than problem-solving for things moving forward. With your partner, continue to clarify when you need to, but not badger. Sometimes when we are hurting, we forget that there is sometimes an alternative perspective. I use that word perspective lightly because your perspective isn't necessarily based on truth. Instead, it is almost always based on your past experience and what they've taught you to think. Who you are in your presence is strong enough to control or change the beliefs you have because of your past. You are in control of your perspective. Begin to consider which parts of your life are you seeing as bigger than they have any right to be. What areas, that if you were able to adjust your viewpoint, would cease to matter is much? I will say that substance use in many ways makes paranoia stronger, so if this is something you may use to cope, try lessening or eliminating that coping skill. But As you move forward continue to ask yourself those challenging questions. See if you can make the opposite of what you initially believe, also true. Being able to see an alternative Viewpoint challenges the belief she's held and it forces you to see things differently. Also, continue to surround yourself with people who think and act the way you want to (or wish you could) think and act. It's counterproductive to be around people or who affirm your misery or in your case the paranoid scenarios. Other people who aren't in such a hard place remind us of the positive outlook. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you continue to grow in your relationships! Take care of yourself.
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/18/2021