For some strange reason, I always tried to scare the crap out of my children when I wanted them to stop doing something. “You will get sick if you eat all of that candy.” Funny advice coming from me considering I am the one who got them the candy in the first place. “Get down from that tree before you get hurt.” Nonsensical advice I gave them after lifting them up to a branch. But I realize I am not alone giving children this kind of advice. Some might consider this good parenting, but now I am not so sure.
Perhaps we are protecting our children from harm when we do this, but I believe my intent was not so caring. What I was trying to do when projecting my fears onto them was to deflect any inconvenience their actions could cause me. The following was the real meaning behind my words; “Stop eating that candy, I want a good night’s sleep and don’t want to spend the night dealing with your indigestion.” “Get down from that tree, there is a football game I want to watch this afternoon and I don’t want to stay out here watching over you any longer.”
Ok, maybe I am being too hard on myself as a parent here, but I am using the example to illustrate a point; we don’t project our fears onto others for their benefit; we do it for ours.
This does not mean that we consciously give advice to hurt people, oftentimes, we mean well. But when we give advice as objections based on our experiences, we may not be helping the recipient.
Seeking advice from others
It is because people project their fears onto others that I believe you have to be careful picking your advisors. Someone else’s projected fears and objections can convince to you take a path that may not be good for you. If you are reliant on the opinion of others for validation, then their opinion can affect you negatively. You also must be wary of the fact that someone may be trying to control you by using fear to discourage you from action.
I need to work on this area of my character. It is easy for me to deflate someone who wants to change jobs or leave a relationship by pointing out the risks and pitfalls of their decision. Nothing is more dispiriting than pointing out what could go wrong to someone who is already apprehensive about making a change.
Detecting when you are projecting fears
Every time I tell someone what I would do or wouldn’t do in a particular situation, I know I am projecting my fears onto them. Just because something went wrong for me or caused me pain in the past does not give me license to discourage another person from taking a chance.
There are reasons to give negative advice. If you had proof your daughter was marrying a serial killer, it is your responsibility to express your objections to her. But barring something of this seriousness, we should recognize that when people ask us for our wisdom, what they are really wanting is for us to help them discover what they want.
We don’t know the future, just because something bad happened to us in the past under comparable situations does not mean this will repeat itself for you or for another. Failure is no more guaranteed than success.
What is important is that we recognize when a person’s inner voice is urging him/her to reach for more. It is at these times we should encourage, offer support and praise them for their courage. We should also ease their mind reminding them they have what it takes to handle whatever journey they undertake. Speak to their authentic self. Don’t fill them with your fears and doubt.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with much joy and contentment.