As a kid, there was one phrase that I didn’t want to hear:
I wanted to be adventurous and unafraid. Willing to do anything or go anywhere.
But I was afraid.
Afraid of getting in trouble and making my dad look bad, of trying something and not being able to do it, of hurting myself and so not even starting, of being too heavy (fat) to do it, of being made fun of. All of these reasons kept me from trying many things as a kid.
I did break my collarbone while trying to jump my bike and slam on the break to spin around. I did get arrested for trespassing in a farmers irrigation ditch. I got sent to the principal’s office for grabbing a girl’s ankle and throwing it up high when she tried to kick me. I fought the bully on the block to stop him from mistreating the other guys in our “gang”.
So it’s not as though I didn’t step out and experience life. But the messages I internalized were, “Don’t be afraid”, “Don’t cry”, or “Stop crying when you are afraid.” Fear was bad! Fear stopped you from doing fun things and could even stop you from being successful in life.
As an adult, fear was something that needed to be killed in me.
It was evil and only acted to stop me from taking the risks needed to be a better man, husband, and father. Fear was only for the weak! For the cry babies, wimps, chickens and scaredy-cats.
Fear was an emotion that had to be overcome. I did high ropes courses to put my fear in it’s place. Under my boot with no power to control or stop me from doing anything. I had to kill fear to end it’s reign in my life.
Then one day, a wise man asked me a question as I continued to struggle with my fears.
“Why do you want to kill a part of yourself?”
I argued that I wasn’t doing that, but in the end knew I was. I had some work ahead of me!
Was I to make friends with a fear that manifested itself in phobias that stifled me from living? Anxiety that enclosed my mind and body so I couldn’t think or even move? Rumination that trapped me in one area of my mind and life and wouldn’t let me think of anything but what it focused on? Mind spinning that overwhelmed me with so many thoughts, feelings, issues, struggles, responsibilities, problems, situations, (you get the idea) oh yeah, ideas that there is no rest, comfort, or sleep?
Well… friendship, no - but getting medical, psychological, and spiritual help from professionals? That’s a definite yes. These are real illnesses, and, though they may stem from fear, they are unhealthy manifestations, and there is hope for healing, help, and support.
The fear that I am encouraging friendship with is a fear that is life-giving.
It is cautious and keeps us from making impulsive rash decisions. It cares for us and reminds us to seek out friends, or counselors to guide and support. It tells us to be aware of what is going on around us. To keep our eyes open and look out for possible pitfalls in our path.
This fear is protective, reminding us of previous times we made foolish choices that brought destruction into our lives. It shines light on our path during dark scary times so we can take one more step with confidence.
I think it would be good to have a friend like this. Don’t you? But if fear has you all tied in knots, I’d be honored to help you work through that so you can know the freedom of having fear as a friend you can count on.
-Douglas Harsch, LPC, CSAT-C