The Suffering of Fear

The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.–Thomas Merton
A few weeks ago I was looking through some old boxes, and I found this random saying on a piece of paper from a ‘quote a day’ calendar.  Over a period of days, I thought about this quote and would pull out the now crumpled piece of paper and think about it.  Every time I read it I thought, ‘huh, this is SO true,’ and then I would stick it back in my bag and go about my day.
When I first started working with careers–I did a lot of work with values, interests, skills, etc.  The standard ‘career stuff’ but the more I worked with clients and talked to people I realized, it isn’t so much that people don’t KNOW what they want to do it is they don’t know HOW to do it in the face of all the fear and self-doubt that springs forth.  And so to avoid the suffering they think the fear monger will cause, people continue doing a job they don’t enjoy and living a life that is mediocre.  Gradually, over the years (usually around the time they come to see me) they have an inkling that maybe living a life in avoidance of the fear isn’t the answer, perhaps the answer is figuring out how to face the fear and make small, tiny changes so they can be happier.
I love this quote by Thomas Merton because, in a nutshell, it describes my job and my role as a career counselor.   My job is to help people ease their suffering by helping them find ways to ease their fear around finding and then doing the career that makes their heart sing.  When we aren’t living a life that is congruent with our values and fulfilling our life mission because we are too afraid, then slowly, gradually over time we will start to show signs of wear.  Anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and negativity in all areas of our lives will increase.  These ‘insignificant things’ as Merton calls them to begin to be a larger and more challenging obstacle then merely facing the fears of our dream work.   You have heard the stories, someone is miserable in their life, so they blame their wife and get a new one, they blame their job, so they get a new one, or they blame the city they live in so they move.  Gradually over time, they become more and more miserable, never realizing that the whole time the ‘blame’ was on them for not being honest with themselves about where the change begins;  with them facing their fears.

So yes, my real job title is a counselor, but in a lot of ways, I am like a fear counselor.