I remember laying in my bed frozen stiff with fear when I was maybe 4 years old, staring at this huge black thing on my yellow curtains. I remember feeling so scared I could hardly yell for my parents. Thinking the worst possible thing a 4 year old could see, I screamed “SPIDER!!!” and my mom came running in the room. I was frantically pointing to the curtains where I could CLEARLY see it because it was so big. My mom ran over to the curtains and then immediately calmed down and started laughing. Her calm and laughter scared me more because she wasn’t DOING anything about the spider.
As I began to shriek “Get it! Get it!” she began kindly repeating “it’s just a hole in the curtain Erica, it’s not a spider.”. I did not believe her and I kept freaking out. She said, “ I want to show you it’s not a spider. Come and see”. After a long debate while I maintained my extreme arachnophobic panic I finally agreed to go close to the “spider” and see for myself. Well she carried me and I was practically hyperventilating...but sure enough ...it was a hole. I poked my finger through the hole just to make sure. I calmed down and the fear diminished.
Here’s the interesting part… I layed in bed staring at the hole night after night fighting off fear and reminding myself that it was not a spider it was just a hole. I even had to have my mom come in so I could poke my finger through it quite a few more times. Now this story is cute and funny but when fear takes the wheel we all know there is nothing cute or funny about it.
Fear. Hmm. What can we say about fear?
Well fear can be scary...just kidding...but seriously. That’s the whole issue right? We don’t want to be afraid...we are afraid to be afraid. It can get messy. I was thinking about the quote “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” by Franklin Roosevelt in his inaugural speech. Or Henry Thoreau wrote “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear”. We are afraid of fear. Is that really what we are afraid of? Maybe. Let’s look at this a little closer.
Unpleasant emotions such as:
Fear, anger, sadness, grief etc.
Pleasant emotions such as:
love, joy, peace, excitement etc.
Basically we want to experience pleasant emotions all of the time and we usually call that happy and when we experience an “unpleasant” emotion we become afraid because we don’t know what to do when we are experiencing pain.
We are afraid of the unpleasant…We are afraid of pain.
We fear the idea that we could even possibly feel pain.
This is a real situation if you are human and on earth because we ALL Experience ALL of the emotions and fearing half of the human experience creates suffering in our lives. We stand wide eyed and paralyzed by “what if”. What if it is a spider, what if fail? What if I just can’t do it? What if they reject me? What if I’m not enough? What if I’ll never be healthy?.... And we turn and run like hell carrying the fear on the inside. There is nowhere to run. Fear goes away when you stick you finger through the hole in the curtain.
Solution to dealing with Fear
We must acknowledge it. Know that it’s like your hyper paranoid friend that is always going to “what if” your ear off. It will bring up your past, it will scan every new opportunity with a pain radar detector. It will tell you that you shouldn’t even try to avoid the possibility that you might experience pain. Fear can be so convincing it can completely talk you out of your dreams, your greatest passions and your health...all to avoid possibly experiencing pain.
But here is what fear never mentions...the greatest pain of all is losing who you truly are and not living the the life the real you desires. Fear makes us feel small and unrecognizable to ourselves all the while whispering that it will keep us safe. So if fear is allowed to call the shots in our life than we can guarantee the real you takes a back seat and rarely gets to travel to places you truly wanted to experience in life.
There is no quick fix to overcoming fear but you can become courageous by doing something that scares you. Allow room for pain… knowing that it’s temporary and always leaves a gift when we have the courage to open it. Everything that ever hurt me...I did it afraid and everything that I love the most...I did it afraid. Fear is not the enemy. Fear is just an emotion. You my friends are courageous. Now go over and see if it’s a spider or not!