What haunts you into no longer moving forward?

I am convinced there is something in an area of your life currently blocking you from moving forward in an intended direction. You may be aware of it or you may not, but I am almost certain it is there.

This problem, this issue likely manifests itself as a sense of discomfort without being clear as to what it is or why it is not comfortable. It will be a nagging, uncomfortable feeling about an area, a subject to be avoided. Almost like the fear you feel when you know you may have a tooth-ache but you haven’t built up the courage yet to push your tongue into the cavity and experience the pain.

What is interesting is that the pain will almost always be less extreme and more bearable than what you think it will be before you commit to examining it. The reason that you are more scared of what you don’t know yet? The power of your imagination.

In his excellent Dance Macabre, a non-fiction work on horror, Stephen King explains the power of your imagination:

But I do want to say something about imagination purely as a tool in the art and science of scaring the crap out of people. The idea isn’t original with me; I heard it expressed by William F. Nolan at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention. Nothing is so frightening as what’s being the closed door, Nolan said. You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. “A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible,” the audience thinks, “but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall.”

Your imagination does a better job at scaring you than most of reality can. And that is something to consider when you have an uncomfortable feeling when thinking about something in your life. The moment you start to examine it, you will discover the “ten-foot-tall” bug behind the door, which is not the “hundred-foot-tall” bug you imagined, or even the “thousand-foot-tall” bug that you really feared. This goes for responsibilities, for exams or tests, for talking to someone you like … there may be a bug, but more than once you will find yourself opening the door and what is scratching at the door is not a bug at all. On occasion it will even be something a lot more positive.

But whatever it turns out to be, when you pay specific and focused attention to a problem, it becomes nuanced and scalable. You can start to break it down in its different parts, which in turn will allow you to find solutions for each of these parts.

The alternative is to remain uncomfortable, frozen, scared. Afraid for something behind the door, scratching … which is likely significantly less frightful than you think it is now. When that problem remains behind that door in your mind, you will lose any ability to gain perspective on it. Go ahead, open the door, confront what you fear. It is likely not as big as you believe it is.