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What is “The Light Socket of Awesome?” It is when we find that one awesome thing we’ve yearned for but have grown so used to not getting that when it does show up it’s actually really hard to grab on to. It’s as if getting what we want is like grabbing an electrical wire. It’s the fear of success manifesting in a way that makes it really hard to accept getting what we want and push away despite our own best interests.

The first time I heard the topic of a person having a fear of success, I thought it was ridiculous. Surely getting what we want in life shouldn’t bring up a lot of fear, right? Well turns out I was wrong. In fact, I found out it was a lot more common than I thought as I worked with many clients, did peer consultations, and even noticed in myself. Logically it made no sense to me, yet our emotions do not often play by logic’s rules. Fear often overpowers logic largely due to the fact that fear is generated from an older and more powerful part of our brain.

We all have, or at least had in the past, hopes, dreams, and goals for where we want life to go. When a person encounters a lot of let downs, defeats, and disappointments one can get used to expecting it. Ask anyone who’s been unemployed for a long time about how hard it is to keep going and not give up. Hope begins to become painful to have as we find defeat over and over gain. Our brains actually process rejection as physical pain, and as a way to protect ourselves from its teeth, it becomes easier to just not get our hopes up. For example, during the Great Recession which began back in 2008 many people found themselves in the long term unemployed state and gave up on the job search as finding work was often considerably difficult.

To a person who routinely had parents let them down, were routinely abused, or have enough of chaos that it became routine, it can feel really weird when things go right. Success and achievement become feelings we no longer recognize and don’t want to trust. A person can become accustomed to bad things happening, or being rejected again and again. When this happens it’s normal to be on guard waiting and being on the lookout for that anvil to drop on us. We dare not be at ease, otherwise when that bad thing happens we don’t want to be unprepared. In some cases, this anxiety becomes so bad a person may actively sabotage themselves so they can just get the inevitable pain over with. It happens all the time in relationships where a person jumps from one bad match to another. Why wouldn’t we prepare ourselves for the pain we are sure is coming? Yet that pain is often so great we become numb to it.

In fact, for many people in the dating pool that have had an exceptionally bad past relationship, or two, (or more), when Mr./Ms Right does show up it can in fact be terrifying. We haven’t had it so good, so we must look deeper to find out what the danger is. In many cases, we may assume this new person will hurt us again and hold them accountable for what someone else in the past has done. Then the fight happens and we find ourselves growing cynical as we think something along the lines of, “See? I just knew this wouldn’t work,” or “I should have know this would happen, it’s just my luck.”

The good news is this fear, like any other, can be overcome. The trick is to first recognize when it’s there. Guilt, shame, or high anxiety can push us away from what we say we really want. It’s important to realize that these emotions are often running in the subconscious and may in fact be trying to protect us from disappointment or abandonment. As you see and feel these difficult emotions, The Light Socket loses the potency of its charge.