Fear. It doesn’t take most of us to reach adulthood before we have developed a fear of something: spiders, snakes, flying, pubic speaking, failure, being alone, water, fire, loud noises, dogs, elevators, closed spaces, etc. Fear is a completely normal response to dangerous situations. However when its irrational and keeps you from enjoying life, its time to nip fear in the butt. My own personal fear? Fear of heights!
I most likely developed my fear of heights when exposed to an unpleasant experience as a child. I remember being around eight or nine and feeling so proud that I worked up a pulley system (bucket and rope) to haul “important stuff” up and down out of my treehouse. My “important stuff” this particular day was a bucket full of bright green hedge apples! What’s a girl to do with a bucket full of hedge apples on a hot summer day? Launch them at your brothers, of course! Leaning over the 2 x 4 railing nailed in by my brother no doubt, I started throwing hedge apples at him. I quickly found myself on the ground…might have deserved that. Now anytime I get to a height higher than myself, which is around five feet five inches, I instantly get that queasy, heart-racing, gut –wrenching feeling and occasionally encounter a small panic attack.
So how is it that also around the same age, I also ended up on the ground in the family burn pile after falling off my horse and didn’t develop a fear of horses? The short answer is because I was immediately put back on the horse and forced to ride. When we start exposing ourselves to the fear and working through it over and over, we no longer have the fear, or it certainly lessens. Thank goodness I had a Kenny Behlmann, aka my dad, the pusher, that made me get back on and ride or I would have missed out on one of my favorite things in life.
Step 1: Learn more about what you fear. If it’s fear of water and you’ve had a near drowning experience, then you’re not likely to want to jump into the next lake you see. But, you might start learning to accept and start to challenge yourself to not have negative or unrealistic thoughts, then you are more likely to overcome that fear. For me, I start with some positive self talk when on a hike along the edge of a cliff: “Wow, these trees are really pretty from this far up. That couple looks so cute sitting near the edge talking to each other, and they aren’t scared.”And eventually, I will heel-toe-it to where I’m somewhere near five feet from the edge and call it a success.
Step 2: Visualize and expose yourself to what you fear. Stop by a community lake or pool and observe families enjoying the water on a warm sunny day. View photos and videos online. Visualize yourself having fun in the water. Keep exposing yourself until you start to feel relaxed and at ease. Now you’re ready for the next part–the exposure to water. This might include signing up for swimming lessons, wading waist deep in the water or getting out in a boat. The important part is to keep exposing yourself even if it means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!
Now, your ready to sign yourself up for the next season of fear factor 🙂