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FEAR OF SUCCESS

By R. J. NICHOLAS

Human beings are one of the most complex beings on earth. Many physiological and psychological factors play a part in how we react to situations and anticipate results. Therefore, different personality types handle success versus failure in such drastically polarized ways.

Psychologists specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) have conducted research on the ways past experience can feed an individual’s current fear of success. The excitement of success for trauma victims feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal or stress that they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. The excitement of success can very easily be misinterpreted as trauma in individuals who have experienced past trauma because it has the same physiological reactions. Therefore they can become almost phobic about success if they are unable to decipher the difference. Sadly these individuals can spend an entire lifetime avoiding excitement-inducing circumstances even at the cost of success.

Unfortunately this subconscious way of thinking can add another layer to the fear of success when individuals attempt to step out of their discomfort and move ahead anyway. If they should encounter any level of disappointment during their journey they can easily become discouraged and may become conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up.” This is most likely the case with many who have been subject to verbal abuse or been told we were losers our whole lives. When we internalize such negative feedback we will automatically feel that we don’t deserve success and will end any attempt to move forward. This also happens with individuals who were not abused or traumatized. Many others will associate success with competition and envy and avoid the uncomfortable feelings as well.

If this is the case, the first step toward having a healthy relationship with success and it’s flip side, failure, or disappointment, is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a “trauma reaction.” When we sense fear the brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks in. This causes our heart to race and our breathing to quicken. We become sweaty and we run on automatic instinct. Oddly enough when we get enthusiastic or excited our nervous system reacts in a similar way. If an individual has been through enough trauma they will automatically avoid the type of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims will find themselves avoiding success of any kind no matter what positive result could come from it because they are actually trying to avoid the feelings of excitement that are devastatingly similar to feelings of fear.

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