You may have heard the term, “fear of success.”
Whenever I’ve heard it, I’ve nearly always brushed it off. How can someone fear that which is desirable? At face value, the concept seems bizarre, the rare mindset of a very small group of significantly mentally ill individuals. However, if one further explores this seemingly alien affliction, he may realize that he is deeply infected with it.
Recognizing the disease is the first step toward defeating it. How does a man know if he fears success? And if he does, what can he do about it?
Aberjhani, author of The River of Winged Dreams, writes, “A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.” To the bookish types, this quote’s meaning is probably transparent despite the beautifully poetic manner in which it makes its point. To the casual or average reader, this quote may seem like a riddle that may be too laborious to solve. Solving it is worthwhile, for it reveals a truth that can either obstruct one’s path to success or clear it entirely.
Let’s dissect Aberjhani’s profound statement. The quote contains two instruments of travel: wings and a bridge. Apparently, Aberjhhani is summoning us to a journey. Within the statement, he reveals the journey’s point of departure and its destination. The traveler leaves a “nightmare” and arrives at a “vision” that is comparable to a jewel. One readily associates vision with possibilities and jewels with wealth, success, and, of course, mesmerizing beauty. It is important to note that the point of departure and the destination are dependent upon one another. In other words, the traveler absolutely has to leave his “nightmare” in order to reach his new life.
What are our nightmares? Answers to this question can vary greatly. However, any man who is interested in challenging himself in order to improve his life, as readers of The Mankipedia live to do, tend to have at least a few nagging and borderline or actually torturous memories of experiences that spark extreme emotions in him. This admission leads us to the next question.
Have the extreme emotions that we associate with our “nightmares” caused us to generally fear and avoid all extreme emotions? This can and does happen. The victim of this condition will subconsciously prevent himself from having to experience any extreme emotion, even if it is a highly positive emotion associated with success. Exhiliration of any kind becomes scary territory — and we all know that success` is exhilirating, and the path to it normally requires several risks and victories that inevitably conjure extreme emotional spikes.
If you notice another person’s success and feel a pang of jealousy, you need to admit that that person has accomplished something that you truly desire. After experiencing the discomfort of that realization, what are your next thoughts?
Do you tell yourself that such a level of success is reserved for people like that and not for people like you? Does the idea of succeeding on that person’s level cause you anxiety? If it does, you may want to sit with that anxiety long enough to fully understand it. Why would you fear the fulfillment of your desires?
As you seek the answer, you may discover that there are many smaller but still exhilirating experiences that you avoid simply because they may be too exhilirating, a state that you have come to solely associate with the negatively exhilirating experiences in your past. Alberjhani calls them “nightmares,” reveals that they are “dead,” and beckons us to leave them so that we may go where we are truly headed.
For this reason, I somewhat respect but mostly dislike the old adage that would have us be careful about what we wish for, because we just might get it. Some of us might be too psychologically aligned with the image of Icarus flying too close to the sun and perishing in flames. If this is your mindset, consider the following steps for adjusting it:
Let your emotions lead you. . .sometimes:
Our politically-correct surveillance society has allegedly made us safer, but at what cost to the human spirit has it accomplished this? Certainly, we have been discouraged from acting on impulse, expressing our truest emotions, and, in many cases, being who we are truly.
This is certainly not to say that we should act recklessly, but it is to say that we should examine whether or not our inhibited lives have become so inhibited that we fear any form of self-expression and, ultimately, self-realization. How can one reach his true potential unless he or she acts upon the impulses communicated by his true self?
See yourself as deserving:
By now, many of my readers know that I am an avid theology student and love stealing bits of wisdom from various religious traditions. Buddhists say we are all one. If we are all parts of the same universe or single consciousness, how could any one person be intrinsically more deserving than another of something that is good?
Christianity tells us that, on a cosmic level, we are all equally important and don’t even have to strive to enjoy our importance. You’re here on this planet. You arrived via the same process as any other human being. Like all of us, you deserve to get what you want, so long as it doesn’t destroy you or hurt or destroy others. You will not get what you deserve if you’re afraid to ever be assertive. If you deserve to get what you want and cannot get it without asserting yourself, then, logically, you deserve to be appropriately assertive.
Most of us have heard of the natural flight-or-fight response that all human’s possess. Fears, threats and challenges trigger this response. The “or” in the term, “fight or flight,” reveals that we have a choice as to how we will respond to experiences` that trigger this response in us. When it comes to saving one’s life in a stituation of imminent danger, the situation will determine whether he flees or fights.
However, when one is confronted with a challenge that can lead to greater success, one is not in an imminent life-threatening situation; at such times, one should determine whether or not he really has a reason to flee from the challenge at hand. As mentioned earlier, the initial impulse to flee may be based on feelings that one associates with “nightmares” from the past. You may be irrationally applying those same feelings to challenges that could lead to greater success. It is so sad to think that you might be denying yourself some of the greatest opportunities and experiences of your life because you are applying erroneous emotional responses to these opportunities.
Whether it’s pursuing a dream, advancing his career, or committing to a relationship these are all situations where there is potential for amazing success but also high risk of failure. The bottom line? If you feel that you are not living up to your potential, take an honest look at yourself and find out what is really standing in the way. Most likely, it’s you. It’s time to step up.
By Vincent Corvino
About the Author:
Vincent Corvino’s writing has appeared in several literary journals, among them The Quarterly, New Letters, The Crescent Review and The Blue Moon Review. He is currently the lead singer of the New York City hard rock band, Urbansnake. He is a former student of Zen Buddhist Roshi, Rich Hart, and has trained as a boxer under former WBO Middleweight Champion, Doug Dewitt. He possesses an MA in Education from Columbia University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in School Leadership. He has been an English teacher since 1996.