Facing Fear

Facing Fear

By Kathy Koches

 

facing fear

 

Drench in sweat, trembling, with my heart beating wildly, I awoke about 3am a few nights ago. It was just a nightmare, which I rarely have, and fortunately I did not really remember what had caused me to be so terrified. But on some unconscious level, I was experiencing extreme fear.

Fear is one of the most basic human emotions. Fear began as an evolutionary survival tactic to avoid pain or death. It is programmed into the nervous system and works like an instinct. From the time we’re infants, we are equipped with the survival instincts necessary to respond with fear when we sense danger or feel unsafe. Fear helps protect us. It makes us alert to danger and prepares us to deal with it. Feeling afraid is very natural, and helpful, in some situations. Fear can be like a warning, a signal that cautions us to be careful.

Many people have a fear of public speaking. Whether it’s giving a report in class, speaking at an assembly, or reciting lines in the school play, speaking in front of others is one of the most common fears people have. I have never been fearful of public speaking, but I will admit to being a bit nervous the first time I signed up to read to the Ajijic Writers Group. I was, and still am, in awe of the talent in this group and, okay, I admit I was fearful of rejection and harsh criticism.  Fortunately they all were kind, and I survived my first time reading.  In fact I found I quite enjoyed it and receiving their constructive criticism helped me improve and grow as a writer.

Fear of failure or rejection can cause people to avoid trying something new or meeting new people. “What if they don’t like me?  What if I try and fail miserably?”  Most of us here in Lakeside are at a point in our lives when we have the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and expand our horizons. So what if we can’t write the next best seller or paint a museum quality piece of art? It is more important to us now to explore things we have always wanted to try than to worry about what other people will think. 

Many people suffer from phobias, such as fear of the dark, fear of heights or my own particular phobia, fear of “edges.” I can go up in a tall building or airplane– no problem; just don’t put me next to the edge of a wall, drop off or any such thing. But what caused this fear in me? I asked my older sister if I had fallen out of my crib as a baby. She laughed and said, “That would explain a lot, but no, I don’t think so.” While I’m pretty sure that was a veiled insult, it didn’t answer my question. 

As a teenager I had no fear whatsoever when surfing gigantic waves, sometimes wiping out and tumbling head over heels in the surf, eating a “sand sandwich.” Why was I not afraid then, when I truly was in a life threatening situation? Perhaps it was because I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged me to try new things and who told me I could do anything I set my mind to. I was given the freedom to explore and try new things without fear of rejection or failure.  And when I did fail, I was not ridiculed, but rather was encouraged to try again. What a wonderful gift to give a child! 

Even the most courageous people have fears to overcome. Are you afraid of something tangible, like spiders or heights? Maybe you fear failure, change or something else that’s more difficult to pin down. No matter what it is that scares you, you can learn how to acknowledge, confront and take ownership of your fear to keep it from holding you back in life. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

Ojo Del Lago
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