Have you talked to your fears lately?
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
My son has a hate, hate relationship with his anxiety. In moments of frustration, as he is struggling to learn some new trick or overcome an obstacle, he looks at me, disgusted, and informs me, "I hate your genetics, mom! Why did you have to give me your fear?" Fear lays between him and the adrenaline fueled sports which he loves. He is a walking contradiction, an anxiety laden adrenaline junky. This contradiction is not new. As a small child he was eager to interact with everything in his small world and simultaneously terrified of exploration without a safety net. One fear stands out clearly. When he was young we would often spend time at the river. The metals docks with their mesh patterns terrified him. He was a water lover from day one, with no fear of going in the water but walking over the water while being able to see it below him left him in tears and insisting to be carried. One day, I sat down with him and said, "Buddy, I know you are scared. Mommy understands, I get scared too, I get scared of lots of things. But did you know there are two kinds of fears?"
"really? I didn't know that."
"Yep, really. We have big fears, big fears are when we are afraid of something we should be afraid of. Those fears are warning signs that help keep us safe. And there are silly fears. Silly fears are a trick our brain plays on us. They seem just as big but what we are afraid of is something that won't actually hurts us."
"Well, how do I know the difference?
"We have to think through the fear. See how what we are afraid of can hurt us, like this dock, do you think it will break?
"And you are good at walking and holding moms hand, so you won't fall off. So is it a big fear or a tricky, silly fear?"
"It's a silly fear."
"Your right, can you tell it that it is a silly fear and that it doesn't get to boss you around"
"Ok, silly fear, the dock won't hurt me, you don't get to be the boss of me."
And then, to my surprise, because really I had no idea if I was making any sense at all, he walked down the dock. Whether it was learning to mountain bike, snowboard or climb indoor rock walls he has continued to walk through his anxieties one step at a time ever since.
Helping my little boy work through his anxiety has benefited me. Often as adults do we "not like" a given activity because we are scared of it. Have we stopped to check if its a big fear or a silly fear? Sometimes, fear is a wise guide. It reminds us to pick up the phone and call our husband as we walk into a dark parking lot and cues us not to walk up to an angry dog just to say hello. But, often, anxiety is playing us for a fool, making us miss that concert because we would have to deal with the crowd or not take the trip of a lifetime because maybe something bad will happen that we cannot control.
What are your silly fears? Have you talked to them recently? Reminded them that they are not the boss of you? Who knows you may find yourself, like I did, last year, at age 39 finally learning to snowboard or... The opportunities are endless.