After I finished speaking, a man in the small audience said, “I’ve learned something new today. I didn’t know that anger is a sign of fear.”
His comment surprised me. Though I had drawn that conclusion from my own experiences, I assumed that observation to be of universal knowledge.
We are taught at an early age how the lioness will roar a warning to trespassers. Usually, she is protecting either her young, or her food. The natural defense stems from fear, fear that someone, or something, will harm her offspring, fear she will go hungry if another absconds with her meal.
Human anger also stems from similar anxieties. We fear losing control, being judged, and going hungry.
We often fear failure, even though our greatest successes tend to come on the heels of learning from our disappointments.
Helen Reddy’s lyrics, “I am woman, hear me roar,” seem to portray a woman who refuses to be ignored, disregarded because of her gender. She’s a woman who stands “toe to toe” with those she needs to convince of her strength and ability.
Isn’t that, in essence, a fear of being ignored? Rejected? Undermined or undervalued?
I have yelled often of recent. At times, my roar has created a hoarse rasp in my voice. A swollen, scratchy feeling in the vocal cords.
I told my husband several years ago, as he loudly disavowed any infidelity, “Thou dost protest too much.” He later admitted his adultery.
His roar symbolized a fear of getting caught in his web of deceit, a fear of finally having to own up to indiscretions, accept responsibility for and acknowledge failure.
By admitting his wrong-doing, he faced the possibility I would leave him and he would be alone.
I, too, am afraid. I fear failure and rejection.
Three-and-a-half years have passed since the last time he strayed outside our marriage. And, yet, despite having had great success in healing from the first affair, I cannot seem to find acceptance in the latest one.
I have not been able to reconcile my hurt and anger with my fears of inadequacy.
During the first fling, I felt like a frumpy, overworked, dowdy mother. Irrational as it was, I believed my appearance somehow contributed to my husband’s wandering.
Yet I rose above those thoughts. I worked independently and with my husband to rekindle the romance and establish a new relationship that was the strongest it had ever been.
I eventually took full control of my life, sorting out my personal conflicts. I lost weight, began exercising, and felt the best I’d ever felt, emotionally and physically.
I experienced nothing but ease and security, and I radiated love when hubby and I were together, whether we were grocery shopping, sitting on the couch, or making mad passionate love. Even in my solitude, a warm glow of confidence spread from deep within me.
Irrational as it is, rooted in my belly is a belief that part of the reason my husband strayed this last time was because he feared the attention I had been receiving when I lost weight. His ego felt threatened and he sought out comfort and assurance of his adequacy.
Now, I have said from Day One of uncovering the latest affair that “I know now his infidelities had nothing to do with me. It’s not about me. It is solely about his insecurities.”
And, yet, I can’t reconcile that knowledge with the guttural, instinctual, emotional part of myself.
I have gained thirty-plus pounds since I uncloaked my husband’s indiscretions, quit smoking, and underwent a hysterectomy (three biggies within a span of three-and-a-half months).
Once again, I feel frumpy. Fearful. Tired. Tearful.
And I don’t trust. I don’t trust my husband to tell me the truth or to protect my heart. I don’t trust myself or my three teenage children, who are, themselves, experiencing their own growing pains.
Sadly, I’ve begun distrusting my friends. Not because they’ve done anything wrong. Simply because I am afraid of more hurt. Fear in its most elevated form is irrational in that way. It bleeds out and taints the world around us.
That is the irony, for fear in its primal state is simply a protective guide. It is naturally no more than our sixth sense, the whisper that says, Stop. Listen. Look. Proceed with caution. Something is amiss. It is gentle.
Hmmm. Maybe, then, heightened fear arises when we do not heed the nudge.
When we love, we make ourselves vulnerable. “The bigger the heart, the bigger the hurt,” my therapist once said to me.
I have recently noticed a return of some of the Borderline tendencies. I fear sliding back into that abyss. I fear losing control.
Classic Type A, huh? The methods I used previously to heal are currently ineffective. The strategies I once employed seem defunct. I keep moving through the Plans, B, C, and D… I am anxious because I cannot seem to create balance between my current emotion and knowledge.
I hear my fears in my thoughts, in my words, and I see them in my actions. Much like Randy Pausch did in his Last Lecture, I’ve just introduced an elephant in my room.
Fear is his name. I refuse to surrender to the deep dark void.
Like the Cowardly Lion, I also possess a badge of courage. Hear me roar!