We’ve all heard of the Fear of Failure, right? This is the situation where people become frozen into inaction because they are so terrified they will fail.
- A man doesn’t ask a woman he likes out to dinner because she might turn him down.
- An individual does not apply for a new job because they fear they will not get the job.
- A teen doesn’t study for a test because they think they will likely fail anyway.
Makes sense, right? It stinks, but it makes sense. I think if you never try, then you have already failed, so what is lost by trying. For some it is the fear of hoping and then being let down.
A new fear my clients have been describing lately is not a Fear of Failure, but a Fear of Happiness. How does Fear of Happiness work? Well, the person is so afraid of being happy because they fear they will not be able to survive it if that happiness is lost. A client told me he would rather be “content” because happiness is too far to fall from and would be too painful. What does Fear of Happiness look like in the real world?
- A man finds someone he can love and sabotages the relationship rather than risk getting hurt.
- A woman seeks out men who can never make her happy to protect her heart.
- An individual focuses on what is going wrong rather than on what is going right, so they can always have something to complain about.
I once had a client tell me she shouldn’t have married her husband because she did not think she would be able to stand the pain when he died someday. They were under 30 and in fantastic health. This client could have prevented the pain of losing her husband (and related happiness), but not marrying him, but she would have missed out on potentially 60+ years of partnership with a man she adores. Her Fear of Happiness (specifically of losing it) would have robbed her of a healthy relationship. A male client recently shared he believes he chooses women who can make him “content” at most because he knows he can handle these relationships ending. His last “happy relationship” took him years to get over and he avoids these now like the plague.
Both the Fear of Happiness and the Fear of Failure stops people from experiencing all life has to offer. Both may protect the individual from potential let downs and disappointments, but they also stop them from experiencing the positives as well. If you don’t go for that new job or new relationship, you may not feel the sting of loss, but you also miss out on the excitements and joys when it goes well. Sometimes you have to take a chance and see what happens. You could be very pleasantly surprised.