Fearing success/what you desire

Dearest Richard, you do say the darndest things sometimes.

Do you mean because it’s such a cliche to say that?

Not that. Just that, the things I personally most fear have nothing to do with what I most want. What I fear are the kind of things that happen in Room 101.

‘Room 101,’ said the officer.

The man’s face, already very pale, turned a colour Winston would not have believed possible. It was definitely, unmistakably, a shade of green.

‘Do anything to me!’ he yelled. ‘You’ve been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I’ll tell you anything you want. I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn’t six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not Room 101!’

‘Room 101,’ said the officer.

1984 by George Orwell

I’ve had close relatives (now dead) involved in death squads where torture was routine. Having what I most want just doesn’t register on my list of greatest fears.

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That does indeed sound horrible, but surely being tortured is not what you most often find yourself scared of during the course of your life

Sure. One’s greatest fear isn’t (consciously) active 24/7/365.

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I do think that our desires and fears are inherently linked.

If we were simply afraid of something and had recourse to avoid it, then we just would. If there was a difficult person in our lives that we were afraid of, we would simply avoid them and thus avoid the fear altogether. Unless there was some other desire-based reason that we hung around the situation.

This link is most-often unconscious, but I’ve found that when I trace back my fears I find this type of link. I don’t want to ‘lose’ something, and thus remain in the situation in close proximity to my fear.

So for example, in the context of 1984, one might be afraid of being tortured, but also attracted to ‘standing up for justice’ and thus maintain the possibility and likelihood of the fear occurring.

In my own life, I’m attracted to pretty girls and also frightened of being rejected by them. The fear only makes sense in the context of the desire.

You are attracted to pretty girls. You want intimacy with pretty girls. You fear rejection. In other words, you fear being denied intimacy.

Were Richard’s words to tally with your experience, your greatest fears would be equivalent to your greatest wants.

So, because what you most fear is being rejected by pretty girls, then what you most want must also be rejection.

But obviously, you don’t want that.

People are constantly wavering between intimacy and rejecting (energetically), with rejecting generally getting the upper hand.

By being intimate (myself) with anyone, I’m putting myself square in the crosshairs of rejection. Any other possibility is unlikely enough to be called a fantasy.

My fantasy and the actuality of rejection are inseparable. As long as I’m chasing that fantasy, I’m creating the context for the fear to occur - in ever-greater closeness.

It’s the people we are the closest to that can hurt us the deepest.

I may not be initially conscious that that is the situation I’m creating, but it is.

Similarly, in Richard’s example of intimacy, people may not be consciously aware that to be genuinely intimate is to lose the self, but once the self starts slipping away people almost always freeze or fight or run or retreat into love.

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By not desiring for them to be intimate, then I’m also freed from my own fear of rejection.

I do see the link between your particular desire and fear. And also between desire and fear in general.

You want intimacy with pretty girls. Failure to achieve intimacy with pretty girls hurts. Ergo, you fear a failure to achieve intimacy with pretty girls (aka rejection).

This is very different than fearing intimacy though. This is fearing a lack of intimacy.

Richard is talking about fearing the consummation of intimacy. The reason being that it involves the loss of self which can perhaps be a frightening experience.

And it may well be very frightening. I’m instinctually afraid of death too. Just that, I consider that there are far more frightening things than death. Death and oblivion can even be relief compared to the pains this universe can inflict on sentient creatures.

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The connection is that the intimacy and the loss of self are the same thing.

In my case, my desire is (almost) impossible and thus creating the precise conditions for the fear to inevitably occur - in other words, they are the same thing as well.

Incidentally, really my desire is to feel their intimacy, which I can’t unless I’m out of the way as well. So I’m rejecting them as long as I’m a self, all the while wishing for them to quit rejecting me.

The clue for me in that was that while I was with Richard and Vineeto I could see that there was still a gap present, but it was entirely of my own creation. I don’t get closeness with these girls as long as I’m still there - I just blame any gap on them, which is easy to do because most often they are indeed experiencing a gap as well.

It seems you’re afraid of pain. But the only real reason to be afraid of pain is the suffering that it can cause. So you maintain suffering at a low level, out of concern that high-level suffering could occur.

As far as fears of death and oblivion, I think that the apprehension of death comes on different levels. A small child may understand the ‘simple concept’ of death, but when they’re a bit older they might grasp that concept at a deeper level, resulting in fear.

And when that non-existence is seen in the most sensitive degree, it is dread itself. But you don’t have to take my word for that.

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Interesting. I’ve tried wrapping my mind around this to no avail.

I remember as a kid getting racked with nerves before Saturday soccer games. Eventually I told my dad I didn’t want to play anymore. I couldn’t understand my dad’s logic whenever he would assert that I was “afraid of winning.” Winning was great. It was losing that sucked.

Turns out there is a thing some people have called “achievemephobia.”

But that’s different to what I had.

This is a good example to illustrate my point.

I play soccer myself, I’m actually going to play tonight.

If I were very concerned about losing, I could do all kinds of things to prevent losing like practicing a lot, trying to get onto a good team, trying very hard, having a good diet. I might even find success in all those things, and win quite a bit. I could even go on a 5-year streak of never losing. However, I would not be free of the fear - it would always nag at the edge of my consciousness as I got older and slower.

I have experience with this because I’d find myself increasingly frustrated with my teammates, I wanted so badly to win. There’s an uncomfortable ‘must’ happening.

The very situation of wanting to win all the time is maintaining the entire narrative of ‘winning/losing,’ which means I can never escape from the fear of losing even if I were to never lose again. The suffering maintains. There are bad feelings underlying the ‘good’ feelings of victory.

We maintain the self because we’re addicted to these types of constructs. They seem important somehow.

Yeah, definitely over my head. :slight_smile:

Always wanted the good stuff, never the bad stuff.

Does not desiring the good stuff feel like suffering?

Desire itself is a sort of tension (of varying intensities) that is relieved by the attainment of the desired object (i.e., the good stuff). If the tension is too strong or goes unsatisfied for too long, the experience can be painful – from unpleasant up to downright agonizing.

And when a series of desires are satisfied, we start ratcheting up the demands - bigger and greater desires must be accomplished!

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C’mon @claudiu what’s on your mind? :slight_smile:

I ran into this in the context of work where I had a pattern of finishing 90% of a project quickly, and then stalling on the last 10%, even when the last 10% was not any harder - or even easier - than the first 90%. Exactly as written in the article:

The fear of success is called achievemephobia and it’s a real thing. Healthline lists some symptoms as: low goals, procrastination, perfectionism, quitting, or even self-destructiveness…any of these sound familiar?
On the surface it doesn’t seem possible that we can fear success itself. But, achievemephobia is more about the fear of change brought on by success and the unknowns along the journey. What ups and downs will we face? What obstacles and challenges will we have to overcome and how will we do it? And, what will we and our lives look like on the other side?

My subjective experience was that I was afraid to fail. However I was told that what I was experiencing was actually fear of success, not fear of failure, which got me to look into it.

It didn’t make sense to me at first, but after reflecting and stepping back, I came to see that even though it did feel like I was fearing failure, if I actually looked at everything in full context what I was actually fearing was success – particularly “the fear of change brought on by success and the unknowns along the journey”.

There’s really two components to it actually, and both reveal that the fear actually was of success/change and not of faiulre.

One is that it is far more comfortable to not really try and not really give 100%, and fail by doing that, then to actually fully commit 100% and subsequently fail. Because if you didn’t really try you can always tell yourself “Well if I applied myself I would have made it, I just didn’t want to apply myself.” This way your self-image of someone who is capable of succeeding is preserved, has no chance to be threatened.

Of course this is ridiculous, because if you do this you actually are factually failing. If what you really want to do is avoid failing – which is what a fear of failure would indicate – then you wouldn’t do this, because this is a 100% guaranteed-to-fail course of action. Yet while taking this course of action, it feels comfortable, and OK to do – more OK than applying yourself. It’s an acceptable outcome, in other words. So by one’s very actions one reveals that failure is OK.

Thus the pattern is – feeling like I was afraid to fail in finishing the project, yet taking actions to guarantee the failure of the project. Therefore I must have been afraid of something else.

Particularly I was afraid of losing my self-image – as someone who is capable of success. So it’s not a fear of failure, it’s a fear of losing one’s identity. Therefore the actions taken are to preserve that identity. It doesn’t matter if the project succeeds or fails as long as ‘my’ identity is preserved (which identity is simply ‘me’, of course).

The second component is the fear of change if I were to succeed. This wasn’t obvious at first but then when I pictured a world where I succeeded I saw that I was afraid of this too. Basically at the 90% point of the project, the world is one where the project is not successful (yet). It is more comfortable for ‘me’ to continue as ‘I’ am – which is living in this world of a project not completed. Once the project is done, that is a change – and ‘I’ am afraid of change. At the 90% point, I know what the situation is – I have these tasks to do, more work to be done, etc. My life consists of working on the project. Once it’s done, that part of my life will not exist anymore…

Further I know my situation now, at this level of material success and wealth. What if the project were to do really well? I would suddenly have more success, more wealth, which brings more things to worry about. It’s another change, and the instinct is to self-preserve, i.e. to not change anything. But if I fail… then nothing changes, and it’s ok.

This second component also clearly is related to fears surrounding succeeding and not failing.

So when taking all into account, it really is a fear of success and not of failure.

I can’t speak to whether kid Rick’s fear of playing in the game was the same, but it is possible it shared some of the elements of this pattern.

The key part that was tricky for me at first is that it didn’t feel like a fear of failure. But I came to see that feelings are unreliable. What works for me to clarify what feelings are really about, is to step back, look at the big picture, and see tangibly, factually, in terms of things happening in-the-world, what the effect of my actions are. If I always find myself steering away from one course of action and towards another, it doesn’t matter the feeling I feel that justifies it… ‘I’ really am wanting (deep down) that latter course of action. It’s then up to ‘me’ to bring that subconscious/hidden motivation to the surface to see how ‘I’ really tick and why ‘I’ deep-down feel that way, and see if it’s something ‘I’ want to continue doing or not (i.e. bring the choice of it from the subconscious up to the conscious where I can consciously choose).