Why Other People Are Scary (and how this can heal you)

I am terrified of people sometimes. Other people can be super scary. And I’m just talking about regular, day-to-day interactions. Sometimes, just a basic interaction can be terrifying.

Why?

People press us up against our “stuff”. We want so desperately to be like, loved, accepted, and to belong. And anything that threatens that is a big red fire alarm going off in our system. We are wired as social animals, to stay together to survive. No wonder, then, that we would freak out on some internal level if our survival might be threatened.

For example, if you talk to someone and they dismiss you and walk away, and you have a deep fear of abandonment, that button is going to be pressed inside you. You are going to make it about the other person – how could they!? But the lesson that has been revealed is that your sense of abandonment needs healing. That is the part you can do something about. You can’t do anything about controlling the other person’s behavior (though you may really want to!)

If you secretly fear you aren’t good enough or likeable, and you try to crack a joke and no one laughs, you will see this as “evidence” that this is true. You’ve been caught. No one likes you. And, you sense of self crumbles. But you’ve bought into a lie. You are seeing this interaction from a very narrow lens.

I have a unique perspective because I have been coaching hundreds of people over the past seven years – and I’ve heard and seen a lot. And guess what? We all feel and fear these things in one way or another. It’s astounding how similar we are on the inside. We all want to be seen and loved. We fear we aren’t enough, the we don’t belong, that we don’t measure up. And these fears from the lips of highly competent, smart, good people!

We are wounded. And, we walk around thinking we are all alone, that we are the only ones suffering.

We walk around in silent pain, smiling at passerby, and no one knows what is going on inside of us. Funny thing is, that person that you passed by might also be tending to delicate spiritual and emotional wounds. You just don’t know. You think their life is perfect. So you compare your internal state to their perceived external one. And you feel you don’t measure up. More “evidence.”

I want you to know that you are not alone. We are all walking this journey together, and we each have different lessons to learn. A person who needs to heal a sense of abandonment might come into contact with someone who needs to learn how to stay when the going gets tough. They may hurt each other as they try to find the grace in the balance. And they may heal each other as they each move deeper into healing their lessons.

A person who is learning how to handle jealousy might begin dating someone who flirts a lot. A person who doesn’t feel they are good enough might find themselves in situations where they have an opportunity to stand up for themselves, to find their own voice. It then becomes their choice as to what they are going to do about it.

We are all each others’ teachers. And we are all each others’ students.

When looked at from this vantage point, life is a crazy classroom, full of things to learn at every turn. And people become less scary, because you can see them as teachers. You can focus on the lesson to learn, the opportunity to heal something within you, instead of an opportunity to look for evidence about how unworthy you are or about how painful life is.

Sometimes, our greatest teachers are the ones who teach us our most painful lessons. People I have greatly feared and resented and been extremely hurt by and angry at have actually taught be very valuable lessons. I didn’t see them at the time because I was looking through the lens of pain and self-righteousness. When I began to shift my viewpoint and look at the exact same situations through the lens of forgiveness, and searching specifically for the lesson, everything changed.

You get to choose the lens you look through. This in and of itself is a journey, too. it takes energy to turn a large ship around. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

So, start today, with a baby step. In you next interaction with someone, just notice what comes up for you. What is there for you to learn? How can you be present to the lesson, instead of the pain and fear? What opens up for you?

Until next time…

With love and light,
Nicole Justine Cavanaugh