Life can be downright scary - sometimes more than others. Probably all of us are wandering through life afraid of something – maybe a situation, an event or other people. Because we’re individuals with differing backgrounds and experiences, our fears vary from person to person. Some people have no problem parachuting from an airplane while others of us think that’s a really dumb idea and our insides get all stirred up even thinking about it. Some of us rather enjoy standing in front of a group of people teaching or just BS’ing while others of us toss our cookies immediately at the idea.
So how did we learn to be skeer’d of all this different stuff? Even though there are likely some foundation survival, self-preservation instincts in all of us, most of the rest of our fears come from our life learning experiences – our programming. If your mother dove under the bed every time there was an electrical storm, there is an excellent chance that you’ll be tempted to do exactly the same thing. If your older sibling was deathly afraid of the monsters in the closet or under the bed, there’s a good chance that you will have absorbed this apprehension. We’ve learned what we’ve learned and dutifully filed it away in our subconscious. Then, unless we’ve been really aware of what has happened to start up these fears in the first place, we’ve probably put out a bunch of effort to make sure they’ve been solidly reinforced.
It’s not uncommon for us to get things twisted up, however. Here’s a quick example. Regress to childhood for a minute (for those of you who make a habit of living there, this should be a snap). Since as early as you can remember, Uncle Harold has always showed up at your house at least once a week. Uncle Harold looks funny – he’s short, fat, balding and smokes super stinky cigars. Uncle Harold is a real pain in the rear. Every time he gets close to you, he either pinches you really hard – or gives you a painful swat. Uncle Harold is an obnoxious, aggravating butthead. You do everything you can to keep your distance from Uncle Harold, but he always finds you. Your life is miserable when he’s around.
So did our stupid subconscious simply file away the information that Uncle Harold is a bad person and that we hate to be around him? No way. In time, our wonderful, well-meaning memory bank extrapolated this basic concept to “Short, fat, balding men are dangerous! Keep away! Keep away! Do not trust them! And watch out for cigar smokers, too! Danger! Danger!” It would take more than a few positive interactions with a super nice, short, fat, bald guy before we decided it was OK to do some reprogramming.
Is it any wonder we’re
screwed up? Think of all the
misinformation we've been subjected to over the years – and how easily we have
been able to reinforce this BS. Some of
our programming has led us now to firmly believe (and by doggies we can prove
all this with examples) that Hispanics are lazy, you just can’t trust Blacks,
folks with Polish ancestry are stupid, Catholics are idol worshippers, the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult, all Middle Eastern
people are dangerous, the inhabitants of Kentucky are all inbred idiots, all
men with long hair smoke pot, tattoos are a sign of the devil, all New Yorkers
are inconsiderate, pushy bastards, Nebraskans are all just dumb farmers, the
Orientals are taking over the US, all
Jewish folks are greedy, money-hungry tightwads, and on and on and on
and…. Yucky programming (according to
my programming, obviously…) .
As a result, we fear (or are afraid of what they will or won’t do) Hispanics, Blacks, Polish folks, Catholics, etc. We also have learned to fear such diverse things as failure, success, being alone, crowds, commitment, lack of commitment, death, life, heights, holes in the ground, not being liked, the future, dentists, flying, driving, walking, running, our government, other governments and a whole slew of other things probably including being afraid that other folks think may we’re afraid of something. Whew!
So what can we do about it! First choice is obviously “nothing”. We can just continue through life being afraid of whatever it is we’re afraid of. Or – we can at least sort of understand how we started being afraid of this stuff in the first place and redirect this fear energy to doing something – anything – that will help us blast through this roadblock to fun living. If we are able to honestly recognize that we indeed do have a fear (and we do) and want to get over it (it’s not a requirement but it could be a good thing), then it will probably be easier if we can get some help with our little project. A helper – maybe professional help if we’re trying to address a life-limiting fear – will make the whole process easier. About the only way I know of to conquer a fear (or use it to our advantage to learn something) is to meet it – or even greet it – face to face.
To overcome the fear of heights for example, we just need to have the experience of being in places that are “high”. It might work out best to start low and work our way to high. Or maybe not. Take your pick. With a helper to encourage us – or maybe even hold us – we could walk to the edge of the second level of a parking garage and look down. Then the third level, then…OK, you get the idea. It won’t be long until we get reprogrammed, change the fear to excited enthusiasm and perch on the edge of the Grand Canyon to enjoy the sunrise. Cool!
To overcome a fear of public speaking, we need to speak in public. To overcome a fear of flying, we need to fly more. Pretty simple, huh? Yeah, right! Just taking the first step is a major obstacle to all of us. That’s why a helper is a pretty good idea. Helpers and research coupled with open-minded thinking – can also help us with our fears of, misconceptions of, and prejudices against – concepts or people. Yes, we will always have the right to hold our own opinions so this doesn’t mean that we have to “buy in” to the beliefs or values of others. But if we are able to understand how we have become programmed in our thinking and beliefs over the years, it’s a bunch easier to understand how the same thing happens to everyone else on the face of the earth. We gain an appreciation of other’s beliefs and ways of living and with our restructured thinking, grant them the “right” to live their lives any way they see fit (within generally accepted parameters – which might not be all that great either come to think of it).
One last thing. Overcoming one fear helps to develop a personal mental process and a feeling of success that can help us address the next one. The more we work on this, the easier it becomes. Even though it may sound a little strange, a few of us sometimes start to get such a surge out of conquering fears that we actually start to look for new exciting, adrenaline-pumping adventures. Now, that is scary!
Our fears provide a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. That’s probably worth doing. I think I’ll go find a high place. I really need to work on that…
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