Monday, November 28, 2011

Deconstructing Fear

What makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? Or your palms sweat? Gives you nightmares? Everyone's at least a little scared of something whether its heights, snakes, the dentist, or your Aunt Mildred's kisses.

From a scientific standpoint and contrary to public opinion, fear isn't just driven by raw emotion. It's an evolutionary response aimed at avoiding danger. You've probably heard the phrase “fight or flight” for the choice we all face: stand or run. But in reality, we don't just have an “either or” decision. When facing something unpleasant, we can also choose to understand. For me personally, I've learned that by understanding my fears, I'm in essence better understanding myself. But first the back story...

It starts with an irrational phobia of drowning. Which is completely silly becase I swam at the neighborhood pool every summer growing up. With each passing year, I somehow convinced myself that the neighboorhood pool is the only safe place to swim, and that my upper body strength couldn't handle other natural bodies of water like oceans, lakes or rivers. Currents meant surefire death.

Here I am clinging to life with 2 floaties and a life jacket. 

Finally after about 15 years, it was time to prove myself right or wrong. I enrolled in swimming classes and decided to conquer Lake Crescent.

The result: pride. Confidence. Amusement at how silly my fear was. It was only when I embraced the risk of drowning that I realized my only true fear I was the one holding myself back with insecurity and shame. Only I had the power to change; only I could end the torment.

We all share very diverse and complicated fears. Overcoming them may not be nearly as simple as in my example, but an attempt to at least understand can mean progress and healing. But where to start? Deconstructing fear means unburying it, which takes energy, hard work, and pain. Only you can decide whether it's worth it, and only you can figure out the process.

In my case, I'm taking baby steps. Swimming was my first deliberate hurdle. Now that I've tested the waters, it's time to apply my learning onward to more complex fears. In the school of Me, I happily graduate to the next level.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

If today were the first and last day of your life...

Celebrate Thanksgiving by watching this beautiful TED talk from Louie Schwartzberg.

There's an inspiring quote I'll be mulling over as I share a delicious meal with friends, "If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well."