If you are afraid of something, do it next

Getting Past Your Fear, if you are afraid

This idea is as close to human nature as breathing, and somehow as we become adults, we resist it.

When you think about human development, it’s all about learning new things, and for most people, that equates to some level of fear.

Psychologists phrase it, fear of the unknown.’ We all recognize the felt-sense of it — ”heart racing, shortness of breath, not knowing whether to run or to stand and fight. And yet, when you think about it, confronting the unknown is the natural state of the newborn, and this state continues for some years. Because we cannot remember those early days, we also forget to think about what it must have been like.

Even parents forget to remember what the infant / child is going through. For example, I’ve seem parents get quite indignant that their six-month-old won’t stop crying, despite the parent having told the child how displeasing and annoying the crying is. It’s as if the parent thinks the child should ‘know better.’

The parent forgets — ”the infant knows nothing.

What is actually happening here is that the parent assumes the infant is simply a little adult. Because they can’t remember their own confusion at this young age, they have no frame of reference for knowing nothing. The parent assumes the child is just being stubborn or evil, when in truth the child is clueless.

Having stated that, I want to look at the situation as I imagine it looks from a child’s perspective. So, for example, the first time a parent yells at a child, gets all red-faced, or even gives off a controlled ‘angry’ vibe, the child is observing this totally new thing. The child has no concept of anger, no concept of who the person is (other than ‘that which is an extension of me that meets my needs — see last article.) All the child knows is that the ‘parent-object’ has shifted, and the energy of the transaction ‘feels’ yucky.

Now, by some fluke, the child might stop doing whatever set the parent off, and the parent’s energy shifts. A memory is set, but it is incomplete. It goes, “Red face, I feel yucky, so I stop crying, no red face, I feel better.” What is missing here is any understanding, on the part of the child, of the meaning of the parent’s anger.

This is the case for everything the child learns. Each action is a new one. With depth perception comes crawling and a fear of falling. With standing comes a first sense of balance. You might even see this experience if you happen to be with a child who stands for the first time, wobbling, but standing — the look is fear combined with wide-eyed-wonder.

So, we could say that every single thing you do had a creation point at some prior time. But here is the kicker. Initial learnings had no antecedent. In other words, there was no experience before the first one. So, trying to roll over for the first time does not have something before it.

As soon as the child starts rocking side to side, a memory (bodily) is created. It is only when the child rolls over that the rocking is connected to the rolling over. Then, the child knows what to do.

How we function in the world is a series of learned behaviours, and we get much of it by age 6. This is also the age when many of us begin to have memories that linger. (Most of us have few, if any memories before age 6 or so. What we do have are memories of stories people told us of those yearly years.)

Something else triggers around that time — our ability to imagine outcomes. Indeed, parents begin to push this idea around this age. Prior to that, kids just don’t ‘get’ that action ‘a’ led to result ‘b.’

The infant mind does not have enough data to interpolate outcomes.

And then, they do.

This becomes a double-edged sword, and in a sense causes the child to slow down the absorption of clean data. Social pressure to behave in tribally acceptable ways begins to be more aggressively asserted.

My nephew has a 4‑year-old. At the least Thanksgiving Dinner, mom and dad filled the kid’s plate. The kid wanted something from every bowl. Turnip was last. My nephew said, “I’ll give you some, but you don’t like turnip, and you won’t eat it.” ‘Coincidentally,’ my nephew does not eat turnip.

Thus, a seed was planted. Now, maybe the kid never had eaten turnip before. But she was just given a tribal rule, which is even more powerful than the taste of turnip. That comment was completely unnecessary, and actually harmful, as the kid ignored the turnip on her plate.

Here comes my point! This sort of life-conditioning is common. By the time most people get to adulthood, it is difficult for them to try stuff. Every experience proposed is vetted through years-old tribal filters.

You hear these conditionings in the absolutes spoken. I could never… Women always… children should be… I’m a (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist) and we never…

Clients come to learn communication. They learn how, and refuse to actually do it with their partner. I ask why. “She’s not cooperating.” “I know he’ll do it for a month, and then stop.” The resistance to doing is two-fold.

First, it is about the fear of trying the new thing. Second, it is the fear of failing.

Yet, if either of those two fears had been in place for us at age one, we would never have learned to walk. Or talk. Or relate.

You might say that who we are is limited by what we refuse to consider and do. We are no larger or greater than our fears.

If I think, “She will reject me / leave me…” I will fear risking getting to know the person and seeing what happens. If I think, “If I do that, bad things will happen!” I will never know that experience. (Imagine if Edison had thought that about passing electricity through tungsten, something never done before…)

At the end of my life, I will be nothing more than what I did. It will not matter an iota what I thought, wished for, longed for, resisted, or did not try.
I am only what I enact.

I urge my clients to experiment with everything life has to offer. Once you have tried a thing, you can choose, from experience, not to repeat it, or to do it differently, or to incorporate this thing into your self-definition.

Living life from fear-based limitation is foolish. The world needs fearless self-explorers, who, in reality, are not fearless, but rather fear-facers. If you think an act will be uncomfortable, do it anyway. If something needs saying or doing, say or do it. If you want to explore new territory, buy a map, and get going.

Because living a tiny, sheltered, careful life, in the end,
is a useless and unprofitable way to be.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.