Magazine article Psychology Today

What Are You Afraid Of?

Magazine article Psychology Today

What Are You Afraid Of?

Article excerpt

WHEN YOU ENTER into a new friendship, romance, or business partnership, you generally do so with excitement and hope. However, most people also fear disappointment or betrayal; being let down does happen. Indeed, the happiness of a new relationship can be dimmed by this very worry. So how do you mitigate the fear and increase relationship success?

I looked at various studies, each of which followed large groups for decades. The research sought to identify the skills that enable both individuals and couples to maintain lifelong success in work, health, and relationships.

In one study, reseachers found that the critical element in predicting the long-term success of subjects' lives was the quality of their interpersonal relationships. The research also revealed a key ingredient of successful relationships: How one handles fear. Take the child who wakes from a nightmare or hears terrifying sounds like claps of thunder. Without a day's training, he runs to his mother for reassurance, then falls back asleep in her arms. His response to fear is optimal.

We are not always so skilled in identifying our own fears or asking for the specific help we need. Nor are we experts in providing the most helpful support to others. Perhaps we are out of practice, or maybe we had little experience in receiving positive forms of support as a child. Hence, we may not recognize-or be willing to acknowledge-our own or others' need for comfort. Moreover, we may not even believe that people are capable of providing this support. Also, those of us who value independence over interdependence might erroneously think that identifying our fears and asking for help is a sign of weakness.

It's important to overcome these concerns, because a related question can be predictive of relationship success:

What will a person do when he or she is afraid?

Relationships can become scary. For one, people are not as consistent as one would hope. …

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