Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself?
June 21, 2017
I always find it interesting how one topic will just keep coming up, over and over again, within a week or a day. So I decided to address this one today with you.
Fear. That’s the theme of the last week. I mean, it always comes up, but for this last week, it seems to have been brought to my attention in a big way, which always gets me to thinking.
One post I came across said (I would like to quote it but can’t find the author):
“All babies are born with only two fears: the fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned responses, brought to the child by its environment, taught to the child by its parents.”
I remember studying childhood in psychology and in one study they put crawling babies near a ledge and they avoided it, even when the gap was bridged with a safe Plexiglas to cross over.
Psychology Today states:
“Our most common fears are of snakes, bugs, mice, bats, heights and water. What do these have in common? They are dangerous… Fear is adaptive because it protects us. More importantly, it protected our ancestors. Our distant ancestors who were afraid of heights didn’t fall off cliffs, those that feared wild animals didn’t get eaten by a tiger, those that ran the fastest left the rest behind—and they survived. So, it is natural to be afraid of many of the things that we are afraid of. It’s natural to have a fear of water—especially if you are a child—because you can drown.”
So I understand that fear has kept our species alive. And I appreciate that, but what I don’t understand is why we give into our fears when we know better? Yes, the past, even generation-ally, has taught us a lot, but when we have new information that tells us not to be afraid, why are we still afraid?
Someone who is afraid of heights can go high and survive, yet still be afraid? In fact they may go to the top of a slide and rather than slide down, will risk climbing down, which is far more dangerous than sliding down. Where is our smart brain in that situation?
I have an interesting relationship with water. I like it, but I tend to sink so I have had several near drowning experiences starting from when I was 5. I don’t like that I can, at times, be afraid of the water and have done some pretty extreme things to try to overcome that. One of these things was white water rafting on the Zambezi. This is a wicked, wicked river that runs between Zambia and Zimbabwe. I wanted to challenge myself and survive this river, which is one of the most dangerous rivers for an amateur to tackle. I am not saying I was hung-over, but I am not saying I wasn’t!
I got thrown out of the boat 4 times. I had been told it would be fine because my life jacket would just POP me to the surface. What they failed to mention was that waves will just keep crashing down on me because they don’t care if I am drowning! When I thought I would break through, another wave would laugh and dump on top of me.
The first time I was tossed from the boat was at the Wall. Aptly named because if you didn’t get across it, your boat would get thrown into the wall. Yep… I fell out BUT I held on to the “I am going to die rope” and was pulled back in, only to get to try again!
My second dunk in the river was at Morning Glory, the 4th rapid and graded at a level 4 (which is bad, level 5 is the most an amateur can do). Four rapids and out twice so far, I did not like my odds going forward as there were 24 rapids in total. Morning Glory is where I spent the entire time under water. I was really unhappy at this point and rapidly entering into terrified!
Third time was The Mother (who appropriately followed the Thee Ugly Sisters). This time the whole boat tipped, and I, for some reason, thought holding onto that safety rope was a good idea. But it wasn’t. The rapids kept trying to push me under the boat. When the guide had to flip the boat, he flipped it ON TOP of us… Things just kept getting worse for me. Meanwhile, my son had been tossed from the boat as it tipped, and with all honesty and shame, I didn’t have the capacity to even notice. But he was fine. Of course he was fine. All the danger was in my head.
We finally got to a quiet spot where there were no rapid sounds and I tried giving myself a pep talk. Alison you are going to be fine. Old people and children are doing this. Snap out of it. And as I was starting to calm down, and watching the crocodiles on the shore, another boat came up close and the guide grabbed my life-jacket, pulled me into the water before the boats closed over top of me. I was pulled back in and spent the next two hours crying.
Fear is debilitating. I get that. I have experienced that and I have gone on to get my open water dive ticket (which is an adventure for another time).
So, when we know something is safe and yet are too afraid to do it, how is that helping us? How is that keeping us safe? How much of your past fears and experiences are dictating your future?