Success And Other Fears
Making it in Hollywood takes a lot of things: thick skin, a therapist, true friends, boldness, a high pain threshold. Even with all of these things, I can’t help but wonder if something is holding me back. Perhaps an actual ‘fear of success’? Could this fear be living robustly inside of me, eating my boldness like a tapeworm, hooked into the back of my throat? But I’m not alone. I’ve also painfully sat by some extremely talented friends and watched them self-sabotage out of this same fear. But why is succeeding so damn scary?
–> It’s War, Baby.
I just read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a small book, but it’s terribly profound and takes time to process. Pressfield says that fear of success, “…is the most terrifying prospect a human being can face, because it ejects him at one go (he imagines) from all the tribal inclusions his psyche is wired for and has been for fifty million years.” This makes sense because in a tribe (our family, our school, our work environment), everyone has their place in the hierarchy. There are rules that one must follow, or the tribe descends into chaos. Success calls for breaking the ever-so-important rules and then making new ones. And this makes the tribe, who relies on stability and tradition, very unhappy with you.
–> Child Soldier
When I was a little girl, my broke and bitter mother would say things like, “All rich people step on other people to get ahead.” Some days she would take it a step further. “All rich people are A**holes. They have to be to get rich.” Implying of course that we poor-folk were kind and gracious and there was virtue in this. As an adult, I realized that this was one of the many myths my mother stirred into our Kool-aid. But even with this conscious realization, years later I find myself in debt and have no big paycheck in sight. So maybe I’m still holding on to this (harmful) belief system because I fear the rejection of my tribe (mother) as Pressfield suggests?
–> Tribal Culture Wins Again
Pressfield goes on to say, “We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are…We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”
Well, I had to read that one a few times to fully grasp it. But slowly, it began to resonate with me. Nothing in the world sounds lonelier than ‘passing through a membrane’. It conjures a bloody, frightening image, like something out of a horror movie.
I love my unconscious mind, because that is where the movies I write come from. But it’s a place of shadows and light-bending, creepy funhouse mirrors, too.
Sort of like the way evolution has allowed our human bodies to keep a bunch of useless crap (appendix, gills in utero, male nipples), our unconscious seems to also keep a bunch of useless beliefs that no longer serve a purpose. Time to hire a professional organizer and weed through the useless crap.
–> Mental Garage Sale
In psychotherapy, one works on creating an “awareness” of behaviors, attitudes and assumptions that may be based in fear instead of reality. But fear of success goes deeper than thoughts and emotions. There’s a spiritual component. It’s biological too, in our DNA as programmed by millenia on the savannah. So how do we conquer it?
–> Warrior Princess
I’ll explore conquering the fear of success in next week’s Chain Reaction.