Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, writes that for years, she went from one sociopath-induced catastrophe to another. It all changed when she decided, “I will stop letting fear stop me.” Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
This picture? It’s a self-portrait that I did at about 2 a.m. one awful night while I was in a toxic, messy relationship with a sociopath (who turned out to be a crack addict, which explained the violence, mood swings and general insanity, but how I didn’t see it, I’ll never know. Love is blind, deaf and incredibly stupid, I suppose).
Anyway, that scribbled drawing gives you a sense of the state I was in. What a relief to know I will never, ever tolerate another relationship like that. But it’s been a long road getting from there to here.
One of the biggest lessons in all of that was this: If you want to make a good decision and have a good result, do not let fear influence you. And I know that’s not always easy if a sociopath is involved. Certainly, life with a sociopath can leave you feeling afraid of your shadow and making poor choices because of it. Nameless fears seem to spring up everywhere, or perhaps fear just sits there in your guts much of the time, ready to leap into action over the littlest things.
I’m not talking about the sensible kind of fear, the instinctive fear that is designed to protect us, like fear of vicious animals, fear of fire, or a fear of standing at the edge of the roof on a 100-story building with no guardrail. I’m talking about the really pointless kind. The kind that involves shooting yourself in the foot, totally blasting it to smithereens, and with a 12-gauge shotgun, no less. I didn’t understand how damaging this was until I stopped letting fear stop me.
Hitting the Toxic Repeat Button
Many years ago, I found myself in yet another Major Disaster. A seriously prize-winning, grand scale, “Egads I can’t believe I managed to do this again” sort of mess. Stubborn, single-minded, ruled by my heart and not letting my head get its couple of pennies’ worth in — until it was far too late — I didn’t listen to the gnawing little voice inside that had tried to warn me. In fact, I’d got quite good at ignoring it down the years. And more often than not, there was a sociopath involved. A massively powerful and painful lesson all by itself, that one…
Anyway, there I was again. Just how had I wound up in yet another abusive situation? I’d spent years in counseling, understanding the mechanics of such relationships. And then I studied social work and became the counselor, educating many people about this subject and helping them to eradicate toxic patterns from their lives.
I knew very well that as an abused child, many seeds had been planted that had kept me on the all-too-familiar path of finding others who diminished me, disrespected me, and violated me throughout my life. I’d got really good at handing over my power without even noticing it.
For years, I’d worked extremely hard to change the belief that this was what I deserved. For years, I’d been fighting to change those self-destructive old patterns. Yet somehow, I kept finding wolf after wolf, while continuing to see them in sheep’s clothing. Whenever an actual sheep came along, those relationships did not last. Ultimately, something deep inside me did not believe I deserved or belonged with a nice, gentle sheep who would not hurt me. Those relationships never worked out any better than the ones with the wolves. They just fizzled out before they even got off the ground.
To be fair, I’d made a lot of progress in being assertive, in recognising inappropriate behaviours, in standing up for myself and so on. But despite all I’d learned, despite ending a string of relationships for the same underlying reason, there I was, not managing to maintain relationships with “the nice guys” and ending up with yet another abusive one. No matter how hard I tried, I kept ending up in the same place.
Feeling defeated, disheartened and discouraged, I had to wonder: Was this my fate? Was it my destiny to work so hard to make the right choices and to try to have a better life, only to wind up suffering in the same miserable place over and over again?
But wait a minute! What about free will? Didn’t that figure in here somewhere, too? I couldn’t believe my destiny would be about having to suffer. That made no sense at all.
The Light Goes On
It occurred to me that I’d been misunderstanding “Destiny.” My destiny is not what I make of my life. It’s the potential for what I could make of it. And I could use my free will to fulfill it — or not.
Okay, so why had I been working so hard for so many years to make the right choices, only to keep finding out that they were the wrong ones? Why did I keep thinking I’d made progress, only to discover that I hadn’t, after all?
Eager to find an answer, I spent a couple of days at my computer, writing. I started looking at all the big decisions I’d made since leaving home at 16 years old. I analysed every one of them, starting from that decision itself, and working my way backward through my thought processes in each one to discover the roots that led to such disastrous results.
What I learned from those two emotionally challenging and exhausting days changed the course of my life in ways that now astonish me.
Every single one of those decisions had been rooted in fear. Fear of being abandoned. Fear of not being loved. So where did all that fear originate? The short answer is that it was rooted in my childhood — and it went right back to my conception, when I feared for my very survival because of the circumstances in my 15-year-old birth mother’s life.
As I contemplated the early fearful months and years of my existence, it became crystal clear to me that I had been letting those fears make my decisions for me. And then I understood that basing my decisions on fear had never resulted in a good outcome.
I can’t begin to tell you what a huge relief it was to reach these conclusions and to put the pieces of my life together in a way that I knew was going to change it for the better. In a way I’d never done before, I was beginning to understand the insanity that had been my life.
Immediately, I knew what I had to do. I made a solemn vow to myself that I would never again let Fear influence my decisions. If a sentence began with, “I’m afraid to (whatever),” I had to do it (the reasonable, normal things people do, not bungee jumping or sky-diving). Yup, that was my promise to myself. I was going to stop letting Fear stop me.
The Universe Loves a Good Joke. Er, uh, “Test.”
Just days later, I was met with my first challenge. I lived in Canada, and a friend suggested I go and visit her in England for a while. I’d never really travelled — a combination of single parenting a bunch of kids on a shoestring budget and the lingering effects of long-ago agoraphobia. In a heartbeat, loads of nameless fears popped into my head.
Of course, my first instinct was that I wanted to say “No!” But then I remembered my promise to myself.
Damn. I looked heavenward, asking out loud (with some annoyance), “Seriously? Couldn’t you have started me off with something a little smaller and more palatable, just to ease me into this brave new world I’m creating for myself?”
But nope, I was thrown in headfirst at the deep end of the pool. And I had no idea how to swim.
I was a serious homebody. I was terrified. Of what, I didn’t know. Could I go to England? Oh, no, I couldn’t. I’m sure I can’t afford that, and I’ve got no one to look after my youngest children, who still live at home. Great reasons. But if I wasn’t even going to contemplate finding solutions to these problems, they were really just excuses. You big chicken.
“Look,” I said to myself, “are you gonna honour that vow you made to yourself or not? Are you gonna cave with the very first time you’re confronted with some nameless fears? Aren’t you even gonna try not to let them stop you? Are you going down without even thinking about a fight? Tsk, tsk, tsk!! I’m soooo disappointed in you!!!”
Well, that did it. I’ve always hated disappointing anyone. It was time I realised that I deserved the same respect as I gave everyone else, and stopped disappointing myself, too. I sorted out child care. And an inexpensive charter flight. I sorted out staying with friends most of the three weeks I’d be in the UK, found some inexpensive B & Bs for the rest, and suddenly, I began to look forward to my trip. Yeah, I still had moments of nervousness, but they were being eaten up by my excitement as my departure date grew closer.
Life Changed When I Stopped Letting Fear Stop Me
From the moment I landed at Heathrow, and throughout my three glorious weeks in England and Scotland, I was met with countless situations that made me think, “I’m afraid to…” (try this, go here, do that, blah blah blah). But I was on a mission. Not just for that journey, but for the rest of my life. If a sentence began with, “I’m afraid to (whatever),” I had to do it.
I can honestly say I’d never felt so exhilarated, never had so much fun, and never felt such a growing sense of freedom and empowerment as I had with every one of those fears that I knocked aside — only to discover that there was nothing to have feared in the first place. I was so very grateful to have made that one simple, yet monumental decision — to stop letting fear stop me.
I could write for days about how that one decision changed my life. But the first and most obvious to anyone who has known me since I lived in Canada is that I ended up moving to England 10 months after that first trip, and those people also know just how much my life and I have changed as a result of it. So many new doors have opened, doors of opportunity and possibility…it blows me away to think about it.
An Important Step Toward Happiness
One of the most important steps was that I began to have a much deeper and more connected relationship with myself. I began to honour and value myself like never before. As I continued to develop this with my spiritual practice, I reached a point where I knew absolutely that I was never going to be involved with another sociopath. And many years on, I’ve been able to spot red flags in a heartbeat while dating, and have managed to avoid going down that path again. My love and respect for myself are far greater now than any fears that used to drag me into those relationships.
And none of it would have happened if I’d stayed in Calgary, fearful of nameless, silly things that would have kept me trapped and suffocating in the fearful little box that was my life. It was fear that had come from decades of dealing with sociopaths, and they’d stolen far too much joy and happiness from me already. I had no idea what there was “out here,” outside the fearful little box. And I’ve only just begun to explore the world and its many possibilities. It just keeps expanding, making me want to see more, do more, and be more. And all because I stopped letting fear stop me.
This article was originally published at LibertyForrest.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.