What is fear? We can ask many people the same question and get different answers. However, one thing fear definitely shows us is that it is all in your head. If we think of our childhood, did the ghost in our closet ever come out? For one moment, remember the worst times that you’ve felt fear. Did that plane crash? Did that dog bite? Did the boogie man come out from under your bed? Fear means false evidence appearing real. It’s all in your head. Or is it? Let me explain.
I have gone to different countries without knowing the language, the culture, or even how to get to my hotel. I cannot even ask for directions because I do not speak the language that I need to ask the directions in.Sometimes, I learn how to ask for directions only to not understand the answer. At this moment, fear has a way of creeping in. I start to panic until I realize that these are just thoughts and there is not any logic to them. Surely, I will find that hotel eventually. The worst case scenario even when I do not speak the language is writing the address down and catching a taxi—something I have done many times. My fear is not logical. It is just panic and fear of the unknown at that moment in time. It is not a logical thought to think that I will never find my hotel and I will have to sleep on a park bench somewhere.
But what if what we fear has happened? If you know me, I have a dog phobia. As a child, I fell asleep at a friends house and they put me to bed. I must have been three or four years old. When I woke up, maybe the dog was startled or maybe it was upset that I was sleeping on its owners bed. The dog did bite me and as a young child that experience stuck with me. I learned that dogs were unpredictable and unsafe. It is a fear that I am consciously working on. The truth is dogs do bite sometimes. I know because it happened to me. So how do I deal with this fear that totally makes sense? I replace the fear with constant action.
The USA has strict laws that require dogs to be on a leash. However, this is not the case in other countries. In Paris, I was once in a phone booth for a good 30 minutes because there was a dog that decided to take a nap right next to the phone booth. It was not until I got to Thailand where I faced my fear directly. There are dogs everywhere in Thailand without a leash and just laying around all over the streets. I did not have a phone booth to hide in. I had to walk everywhere so I did not have a choice but to replace my fear with action. I calmed my thoughts that every dog out there is out to bite me. As I walked to my hotel one night I must have run into half a dozen dogs. Here it was, the moment of truth. One dog looked at me as I passed by and could not have been more disinterested in my presence. I giggled at that moment because I realized that my fear was not justified. Most of these dogs are so accustomed to taking long naps under that hot Thailand sun that they do not have any interest in coming to you. If anything, some of them are even more scared of you than you are of them. It occurred to me that these dogs may be abused and the only desire they have is to be left alone. It was not until I replaced my fear with action that I started to realize that my thoughts are just words taking up space in my head. I can acknowledge my fear and its existence but I can just as easily replace them with new thoughts and ideas. My dog phobia is something I deal with but I remind myself that unless I take action to finally heal this phobia—the fear is still controlling me. An episode that happened in my childhood still has power over me until this day.
I will never forget a blind man with a dog that could tell that I was afraid of it. He asked me what had happened to me that I was so hesitant with his dog. He must have had that sixth sense and could tell I was afraid of it even though he could not see me. When I told him my childhood story his answer was ¨How old are you now? You are STILL holding on to something that happened decades ago? Let it go.¨
Thanks to that gentleman I noticed that he was right. It seems we hold on to negative experiences a lot longer than the positive ones. Surely, over all those decades I have been around dogs that never bit me 99% of the times. Even though I had evidence that dogs can bite, I had more than enough evidence that most do not. I learned that it is true that fear is false evidence appearing real. As for my travel adventures, I have never spent a night on a park bench and I have never been bitten by a dog again since that episode as a child. The only way to take the power of fear from controlling us is by replacing it with the actions we are most afraid of. We must say hello to fear, accept its presence and then tell it to go on its way. Trust that all will ultimately be well and you deserve the joy and peace that comes from moving beyond all of your fears. You must choose to take action through your fears instead of always allowing yourself to feel helpless by it. You have the ultimate power to choose your ultimate path.