The cause of fear

When we fear something we experience it as a physiological experience in our body. Our heart beats faster, palms get sweaty and our feet feel as if they are frozen to the floor. The main objective may be to get away from whatever is causing us this feeling.

In reality the true cause of these feelings is us, our thoughts / beliefs about the stimulus (the thing you are focusing on.) For instance B has become afraid to try certain rides in theme parks if she hasn’t tried them before. We went to LEGOLAND and we all wanted to go on a ride together.

The ride was one that happens to be one of her favourites at a different theme park. This one had a different theme to it, a different name and different decoration but it did the same, it was the same ride. We all get to the front of the line and although she was apprehensive she agreed to come and line up so she could watch the ride first. No problem I thought, she would see that this ride works the same as the one she likes and on we would go.

You cant reason with a child in fear

We watched the people’s faces as we waited. They all had smiles. As they climbed out of their carriages and made their way to the exit we stepped forward. Only B stepped back. Here we can see that the ride (stimulus) was not causing her to feel scared, otherwise the same ride in another place would cause the same emotion. This is where we can see that the true cause of what she felt was her beliefs about this ride. As she imagined the ride to be faster and higher than she likes, her body responded with fear.

Once B was scared she was not going one step closer to the entry gate. No amount of reasoning about its height or speed worked. Bribes were resisted and all attempts to get her on the ride were refused, met with tears, shouts and stubbornness. She and I walked back through the now long line to watch as the others enjoyed their ride. Her fear had held her back from the experience.

A change of mind to change the effects of fear

The rest of the family enjoyed it so much that a short while later we found ourselves back there. This time B said she would try it, I don’t know why. She either looked at the ride and thought differently about it or decided it was better than standing and watching. It doesn’t really matter why she changed her mind, but the only thing that had changed was what she thought of the ride, at least enough for her to try it. The ride itself was still the same as it had been all along.

In the line she was nervous, she held my hand and repeated that if she didn’t like it she wouldn’t go on again. She said she was worried but when I gave her the choice to wait and watch again, she wanted to try it. This was my little girl changing her action from changing her thoughts. She allowed herself the chance to have some fun on this ride.

Open to opportunity

The gate clicked open and we followed the queue of people pouring forward and into the small carriages. In we got, the bar came down and the ride began. No more than two seconds later that little girl next to me stuck her hands in the air and squealed in delight.

After allowing herself a chance instead of limiting herself with negative beliefs about the ride she tried it and she loved it. The smile didn’t leave her face the whole time and when we got off her words were “again, again.”

Not all stories will end like B loving the opportunity she had given herself. I was in the same position that day with the pirate ship – I hate the pirate ship. I had been allowing myself to play with my beliefs and feelings with this ride and had been on the baby version a few times now which is a big step for me. Anyway that day I saw a medium version and decided to go for it with my eldest.

You know what, I hated every second of that ride. I hated the effect on my belly and knowing I couldn’t get off, and it went sooo high and seemed to last forever! Am I glad I allowed myself the chance even though I hated it? Yes because my daughter and I had fun, we laughed. Looking back, it’s a favourite part of that day, although I won’t be rushing to do it again.

What fears are limiting you?

This isn’t about how B changed her mind it’s about the fear she had and how it held her back. Our fears can prevent us from doing so many things and this can lead to a life where so many opportunities for joy and happiness are missed.

As parents we may be holding ourselves back from many things that could be great if we tried them.

  • Do you stop yourself from joining in with your kids goofing around when people are there in case you look a fool?
  • Are your fears of doing it wrong holding you back from having a party for your little ones or allowing their friends over?
  • This is a big one – are your fears preventing you from allowing your child to take the next steps to their independence. To walk to school or go shopping with friends?

Think about all the opportunities that could come from doing these things. If you could change your mind enough to open yourself to experiences what would you gain? Sometimes it is getting passed the emotions we feel that holds us back; changing our mind about things can change that.  When we do, it may open things up for us, offer us opportunities that we hadn’t allowed ourselves to even see before? Not to mention the feelings of knowing we did it, we can do it.