Are we all a bunch of scaredy cats? It seems that as we grow older we become more and more fearful of the things we used to take for granted. We’re fearful of risks and taking chances. Let’s face it; we’re not the daredevils we once were or thought we were, some more so than others. How did it all come about?
Risk taking is for the young and unstable. They (we) are accustomed to living on the edge. Look at the sports that the young take up: BASE jumping, skydiving, even skateboarding (ever seen a sixty year old on a skateboard, or anyone other than the former President George H.W. Bush skydiving)? Those are risky sports. They require the ability of the participant to suspend all reasonable belief in his or her mortality for the brief feeling of exuberance.
But this article is more about fears than risks. In a sense, they are related. I think the reason people are fearful is because they are afraid of taking risks. Over time, those phobias grow stronger because we have not conquered them or even made an earnest attempt to conquer them. In fact, we work around these phobias because it’s just easier to do that. We work around them by avoiding them, because avoidance is much easier to handle than confronting them head on. Confronting them would take courage and, here’s that word again, risk.
What we need to do, then, is to take those fears and phobias that have been developing (and fermenting?) over the years, and we need to set realistic goals for overcoming them. We could continue on our merry little way but that’s not the point. If we don’t go toe to toe with the issue, it will consume us. As it is now, we struggle to think of fresher ways of circumventing our fears.
Overcoming long-held and long-nursed fears is difficult, I’ll admit. But, it’s certainly not impossible, though, as we contemplate the steps we take to defeat the fears, it seems overwhelming. Here are a few practical steps we can take with each phobia we have.
- Recognize that you have a phobia. That’s how people enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous look at it. If they are not willing to admit that they have a drinking problem, they cannot begin the road to recovery. Taking that first step is huge and should not be overlooked in the least. It may very well be like the 1200 pound elephant in the room: it’s there and everyone in the room knows it’s there, but we pretend it’s not. Phobias are like that.
- Recognize that you probably are not the only person in the world with this fear. There are lists online that tell you the kind of fear it is and the name associated with it. If the phobia has a name, then it also has people who know exactly what it is and are either avoiding it or are taking steps to tackle it. The fact that the fear has a name is significant.
- “What About Bob” is a favorite movie of mine. It has some hilarious scenes, but it has a larger point than the humor: baby steps, baby steps. You can use all sorts of cliches to talk about what taking baby steps really is, but the point is, take a little at a time when you can. If you choose to conquer all your phobias at once, you’ll be paralyzed and won’t be able to continue. Take measured, small steps to begin the process of conquering your fears. It’s a time tested model.
- Lastly, reward yourself when you do well, even in the smaller phases of you overcoming these fears.
As you probably have noticed, I have taken great pains to avoid specific solutions to your fears and phobias. Why? Because each fear is different just as each person is different. What may work for you may not work for your next door neighbor. These four principles will, however, help guide you through your circumstances. They are time-honored and logical principles.