This is a phrase I’ve heard many times over the years and up until we adopted our children I wholeheartedly agreed I think – that actually the fear of fear is the thing that immobilises us. Now however there are so many different levels for me in this statement:
1) When I think about it as a business owner/entrepreneur I know all too well the feelings of fear are far worse then the reality many times. Of course businesses do fail and things do go wrong but the incredible highs of creating your own company and work far outweighs the risk for me. I can say that now after a relatively good year in business. When I was employed earning a dissent wage and doing the 9-5 (well more like 7-6) thing the thought of giving that all up and taking the plunge was very scary and one I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do on my own. I know this to be true of many other people. The reason we eventually end up working for ourselves is that we’re made redundant. And it’s not that I didn’t want to do it before, the fear was just too overwhelming – or should I say fear crippled me into inaction.
Now that both my husband and I have taking the plunge (well been pushed into it) it’s amazing. There are of course many times of complete debilitating fear for the future but it’s teaching me to trust more in myself and in the plan and future I know I have. The feelings of being able to make a difference in the world and make a mark in someway is brilliant. I hope when that fear rears it’s ugly head – as it does daily – that I can remember why I’m doing this and that the reality is very rarely as bad as the fear.
2) When I think about my children it’s a whole different experience. Fear for them is a constant companion. Something they live with daily, even when they’re not aware of it. When you have been born into a chaotic, unsafe environment fear is real – the reality is real, what might happen when we are frightened often has happened to them. So for them there is lots to fear! And now even when they’ve been in a safe environment longer then the unsafe one those feelings of fear are still very real. When someone flashes an angry look, when a voice is raised, when a sharp movement of an arm happens – the fear of what might happen rises and sends them to another time and place.
In the workshops I do in schools we often talk about how much anxiety children feel in school, especially if they’ve been in a violent and unpredictable home. The slightest noise, person moving, new smells and atmospheres can paralyse them into a state of fear, or their behaviour is such that it takes them out of that danger – they do something to get kicked out of the classroom or turn aggressive and violent themselves. Bryan Post a renowned expert in the field of Attachment & Trauma talks about that all our emotions come from either love or fear. Many times for my children I know their reactions come from fear – a lie, an action to make it look like they didn’t do it, running and hiding all come from fear.
I recently watched a Will Smith film called After Earth – great film and this quote really stuck with me:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.” ― Will Smith
In the case of my number 1 scenario I think this is true. When I speak to others about stepping out in business I can see this in action – what we make up in our heads determines whether we take the leap or not and then daily we have to check our thoughts. I remind myself daily that what I fear does not exist at present – and it may never exist (it might of course but me worrying about it won’t change that).
In the case of my number 2 scenario – danger has been very real for my children in the past. I just read a post from an adopter friend on Facebook and it clearly shows how sensitive children are who’ve experienced trauma in the past and just how different we have to treat them:
So! I’ve been keeping things light with the kids about Paris because they have a tendency to worry, reminding them that they will be with family who know the city and speak French, they don’t have to worry about a thing. So imagine how pleased I am to learn that my daughters French teacher has given her the following advice about Paris: ONE, carry money with you at all times in case you get lost. TWO, carry i.d. with you in case the police stop you and ask you to prove who you are. THREE watch your handbag and pockets, because people will try and steal from you. I now have a hyper 12 year old girl who’s planning what to do if she gets lost and robbed! What was she thinking!
It’s a constant balance of reassuring them that they are safe and being realistic about the dangers around. So if you know someone who is living or working with a child who struggles in this area just remember that the thing they fear may have been a reality for them and we need to help them to feel safe. Also the more we understand their reactions to things, the more we can help them to make a choice of how they feel. And like Will Smith says maybe one day they will be able to make the distinction between fear and danger.