The Paralysis of Fear

Saying and doing the wrong things are both familiar and terrifying to me. You would think after so many years of opening my mouth and letting fly the Monkeys of No-Tact that I might be used to it by now. Or even more used to that feeling of letting people down by either not noticing what needs to be done or scuttling off rather than doing it.

You get to a point where saying and doing nothing is preferable to doing it wrong.

I've been scolded time and again by reasonable, right-minded people who say that efforts made to do it right are worth any possible mistakes and that speaking your mind is a good thing. I agree; honesty is always best and people mess up, so why the big deal? Why do I worry so much?

Well, it's the Fear.

It's not simply worry, or dread of yet another mistake. I can live with accidentally offending someone or even forgetting their birthday (sorry in advance). What I can't abide is the freezing, paralysing, stultifying fear which arrives at the very moment when I realise I might make a mistake. I am afraid, readers, terrified of getting it wrong - but not all the time.

You see, the fear is not a constant but it is consistent with certain situations and people. If you know someone is going to react badly to yet another stupid, dumb-ass, thoughtless, tactless mistake from your sorry self, then you will be afraid of making that mistake. In no way does any aspie want someone spinning round and fixing them with the Look that says you have done it again, well done, you really did it this time!

How could you forget three times in a row? You knew how important it was! You didn't really forget! It was too vital, too much of an issue the other two times. How could you get it wrong this time when we had that whole discussion (row) last time and you promised to try harder in future?

How could you let down your friends/family/limping dog so badly and then do it again? And again??!

The only answer is that you cannot care because a person who cares remembers and a person who cares has a reason for forgetting or real problems which stop them remembering things.

(It is worth pointing out that in these situations other people do some forgetting of their own and don't seem to remember that Aspergers is kind of permanent and does not switch off and on like Data's emotion chip).

Faced with this emotional and accusatory outpouring, what is to be done but apologise and hide? Or fall headlong into the adrenaline-fuelled meltdown caused by being attacked. Neither of these responses helps in the slightest with your awkward situation but I do recommend hiding anyway as it is good and people can only wait around for so long before leaving you alone and stomping off home.

The next time, though, we do remember something. We remember the fear and the fact that our forgetfulness or mistakes brought on the fear. We remember that the other person became angry and upset and we were to blame (or were blamed, which is a different thing but feels the same). We remember the badness of it, the sense that we wanted the whole thing to end right now so we could be okay again.

We remember sitting and wishing it had gone differently so we didn't have to endure the drama of getting it wrong.

Mostly, we remember that it was scary and had that pit-of-the-stomach lurch which signals danger. So we determine never to do it again.

Knowing that we can't always avoid the mistakes and forgetfulness, what we actually resolve never to do again is go through the fear. We may still forget but we will avoid situations where we are relied upon to remember. We may still make mistakes but we will avoid those people who rail against us for doing so. We become a closed book to sections of our lives where important people and places live and we move on, holding ourselves apart from the expectations which try to follow us.

Fear, readers, is a motivator like no other. Love and kindness are sweet but fear helps you remember situations and people in a way that no other emotion can. A small amount of fear reminds you of all the times you have been terrified and you back away instantly, just in case you let in the rest of it.

Whatever brave souls may tell you, fear is not a positive emotion. When you face danger you run from it and learn from the experience, you do not seek to repeat it just to be sure it was awful.

Paralysis and avoidance can be positive, if it means you do not have to stand, spot-lighted in a drama of your own making, chastising yourself for not getting it right while the other person chastises you for getting it wrong.

Today there will be no fear, only moments of pause where I stop what I am doing and decide if this is a time when I must turn away. To you it may look like I am unwilling to face reality but to me it means turning to the window, with the sun on my face. I choose that, readers.


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