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Overcoming Fear Leads to Reparative Experiences


Is your fear preventing you from having reparative experiences? I hope not, because fear not only keeps you stuck in victim mode, but also ensures that you stay there. On the other hand, you could do what some of my clients have chosen to do: face your fears, push past them, and improve your future along with your view of yourself. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A client, Andra, a veteran with PTSD, found it hard being social after suffering a military sexual assault. Since then, she’s had two abusive relationships, but also has been determined to overcome her fear of men. Recently she was at a social event where a male vet was sexually inappropriate with her. This time, instead of ignoring his mistreatment and freezing or fleeing in fear, she stood up for herself and told him off. After sharing with other male vets what happened, she received their support, including banning the aggressor from future similar events. 

My client says that because of this incident, she now feels safer around men. Onereason is that she didn’t cower or minimize what happened, but confronted his remarks which made her feel empowered, not like a victim. A second reason is that, whereas she’d not been supported by her fellow male soldiers in the previous sexual assault, her current comrades were whole-heartedly behind her, which made her feel safer around men in general. In sum, she now had greater trust in herself and others. 

That’s a reparative experience. Had she not gone to the social event because she was anxious about being sexually assaulted again, she would have missed the experiences of feeling empowered and supported which shifted her view of herself and the world. If we stay scared and stuck, we will always pair the feeling of fear with what came before and believe our future will be the same. It’s only when we feel the fear and do it anyway, that we can shift a 180 degrees in our perspective and pivot in an empowered direction. 

What needs to change is your mindset. There will always be victimizers out there who’ll try to harm you. Some will let you know right away through obvious inappropriateness while others will show more cunning and deceit and play the long game. If you’ve been mistreated by this type of person—especially if one of them was your parent—you were truly a victim. Now that you’re an adult, however, you cannot only avoid a good deal of (but never all) victimization but can adamantly refuse to buy into the victim mindset. 

Do this by recognizing that even if you were a potential victim in the moment, you don’t need to embrace thinking, feeling and acting like one. By losing the fear, you gain the power.