We all have our pet fears, but whatever the specifics, the root is usually the fear of having to experience certain feelings. This often has its origins in childhood. We all want to avoid the feelings that were overwhelming to us as children.
For example, if we are subconsciously still trying to impress our parents, it’s possible that this habit comes from a fear of rejection - which would have very serious implications for a small child who is unable to survive without a caregiver. Therefore the fear of rejection is overwhelming for the child and it becomes embedded, carrying on into adulthood. Similarly we might harbour fears of abandonment or being emotional smothered, we may fear failure or even success, and would that we could locate the source, we may find all this started in our earliest years.
One of my favourite games when stationary in a traffic jam through a town or city is to study the passers-by and try to deduce what kind of child they were. In some people it’s difficult to tell, they inhabit their grown-up persona completely, and yet with others, the child they were is writ large, it’s easy to recognise the traits that defined them when they were young. They wear them as plainly as the clothes on their backs.
Growing humans is a delicate matter. Try as we might to develop, grow and mature, I’m afraid that whether superficial or buried deep, the heart and soul of the child we were lives on, and wields power, despite our best efforts.
The flip side of this is, of course, how we can try to prevent such unwanted baggage being carried forward into adulthood by our own children. It can help to encourage open conversations around emotions - including our own. We can share stories of overcoming our fears, but without negating the importance of the emotion itself. Children need to have their feelings acknowledged and validated, and then to see for themselves that they have no reason to become overwhelmed by them.
This isn’t an easy fix for anyone. Emotional maturity is a long and arduous quest, which some of us never complete (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump) but with patience and persistence we can help our children learn not to be overpowered by their feelings, so that they can grow up free of buried fears that never leave them.