This week I’ll be speaking to a group of counselors about complex PTSD. One of the hallmarks of C-PTSD is the combination of chronic relational fear AND chronic shame/guilt over having said fear. It manifests itself as, “I’m afraid of you but I know it’s my fault for being afraid.” (NOTE: the reverse is not necessarily true: that those who have chronic fears, trust problems, and self-condemnation have PTSD or C-PTSD.) My focus at that training will be on this question: How do you lead someone (in therapy) in the repetitive work of “Do not give in to fear”?
On Sunday, Tim Lane of CCEF preached a sermon about fear and disappointment. In that sermon he mentioned our propensity to “flail ourselves”–assuming that we must be doing something wrong–if we experience fear. Instead of focusing on the experience, we ought to examine our responses to fear. Do we shut down? Do we believe that we are alone and isolated? Do we turn inward and act only in self-interest?
He gave us this quote from CS Lewis (Screwtape Letters): “The act of cowardice is all that matters, the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin.”
Here’s my question: Is it possible to be afraid and to trust nonetheless without much reduction in the level of fear? Don’t we assume that if we act in a trusting way that our fears should abate? Especially in light of trusting God? Is it possible to trust God fully and yet fear? What might such fear and trust together look like? If we could do both at the same time, would it reduce inappropriate self-condemnation?