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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fear of Failure

I woke up this morning in a good mood.  The sun was shining brightly after what was a dark and stormy day yesterday.  I thought it was such a beautiful day.

Then, the thoughts and anxiety started to intrude....

I haven't been in the best of places recently anyway.  This was something I addressed yesterday with Rachel.  My thoughts have been wrapped up in the holidays as well as the anniversary of the death of a former student of mine who was killed two years ago while crossing the street.  She was only eleven.

After delving into things, we soon realized that one of the main roots of the anxiety and depression was the thought of seeing my father if I went to the holiday dinners at my brother's.

At first, we simply thought it was my anxiety about my need to be perfect and make everyone happy.  The need to create that Norman Rockwell kind of holiday.  Perfectionism is a constant issue with me.  We address it almost every therapy session.  I'm trying to chisel away at it little by little, but it's so ingrained for so many reasons.  Rachel gave me an "assignment" this session.  The "assignment" was to try to fail.  Well, not exactly to try to fail, but to allow myself to fail and not to judge myself for it.  She doesn't want me to try to create failure.  She just wants me to accept it if it happens.  She wants me to allow myself to be human, something I never do.

There are two main reasons I strive for perfection.  The first is to keep everyone happy.  In my childhood world, when things weren't perfect, my dad could get angry, and then people got hurt.  After my parents' divorce, if things weren't perfect, my brother could get angry and take his anger out on me.  Even after we all grew up, if things weren't perfect, if I wasn't perfect, my siblings would be unhappy.  They may be a lot less likely to take it out on me physically, but they have no problem taking it out on me verbally.  My need to be perfect stems from me trying to protect myself and my family from making anyone unhappy, to protect anyone from being hurt, physically or emotionally.

The second reasons for my perfectionism also leads back to my father.  This is what we really discovered yesterday.  It is another reason I don't want to be around my father, at all.  This reason is that I'm scared of being like my father, of turning into someone like him.  He also had OCD tendencies.  He especially had food contamination issues.  Some of the anxieties I have, some of my obsessions and compulsions remind me so much of his when I was a child, and this scares me.  This scares me because if I have his OCD tendencies, can I also have inherited, and eventually develop, his other tendencies???

I don't want to be the kind of person who would beat their spouse until I cracked their skull.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would hit their children with a hammer or chase them through the fields with their pick-up truck.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would put their four-year-old in the bucket loader of their tractor, raise it twenty feet above the ground, and dump it hoping that their child would fall twenty feet and land in pain.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would kill their child's pet right in front of them just to see the anguish on their face.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would torment the people who loved them just to get pleasure for their pain.

I'm so scared that if I inherited his genetic predisposition for the OCD, that I could have inherited his genetic predisposition for this as well.  I'm scared that if I'm not perfect, that if I lose control, that this could slip out.  I'm scared I'll hurt someone I love, that I'll become the kind of monster my father was.

Rachel pointed out that the fact that I even worry about this shows that I am NOTHING like him.  People with issues like my dad's would never think twice about it.  She said that I am not him, I will never be like him.  The fact that I am willing to put myself through so much, to make myself so miserable to prevent it, just for everyone else, shows that I would never be like him.

Still, the entire idea of failing, of being less than perfect, of being human, being fallible, terrifies me.  It fills me with so much anxiety, so much paralyzing fear.  It fills me with anger toward my father for doing the things he did, for putting me in this position.  It fills me sadness and depression for the child I used to be, the one who endured all this.  It fills my mind with so many racing thoughts and images, past, present, and future...of things that were, of things that maybe, of things I wish weren't and things I pray never will be.  I'm just so overwhelmed by all the thoughts and emotions, by all the fear and anger, that I'm not sure how to dig myself out and move past it all.  I'm sure that after a few days, my poor mind will be able to process everything and figure it all out, but right now, I just feel stuck and helpless, and I just feel scared.


  1. Aw :-( I am sorry you feel stuck and scared. That is a terrible place to be.

    Just remember you are NOT like your father and you NEVER will be.

  2. Rachel is absolutely right - You are not your father.

    Just from being aware of his negative behaviour and abuse, you have made yourself entirely different to him. People who could behave as he has have something missing from their psyche, that strand of consciousness that makes us behave like civilised human beings, and the fact that you abhorr that kind of terror is exactly the reason why you will never be like it yourself.

  3. I thank you both, and all of the others who have sent me more private messages, for your kind words and support. You have no idea how much it means to me and how much it helps me when I'm having one of those dark moments.


Please leave me a comment below. Feel free to share your stories and struggles with anxiety or those of your loved ones. Please show respect when doing so. : )