Fear. Such a common emotion. Such a daily experience. Such a gift to our development if we are able to recognize it as such.
Unfortunately, we often do everything but recognize our fear as it actually is. We ignore it (I’m not afraid!), minimize it (It’s not that scary!), embellish it (I’m paralyzed with fear!) and everything in between. And when we don’t recognize our fear for what it is, we miss the opportunity of what it can do for us.
As a little guy, Silas was a bit…well…fearful. A paper cut resulted in blood curdling screams. A dog sighting resulted in blood curdling screams. A new vegetable resulted in blood curdling screams. A drop of blood resulted in- you guessed it- blood curdling screams. Our neighbors all knew his scream and knew that whatever was happening probably wasn’t as bad as it sounded. I’m not gonna lie- we were a little concerned that we were raising a wimp. It hurt our pride. And we were afraid.
With a Marine for a Dad and a Marine trainer for a Mom, it would’ve been tempting for us to resort to Drill Instructor Parenting. Phrases like toughen up…tighten your diaper…don’t be a cupcake danced in our heads and more than once we had to bite our tongues.
Thankfully we have a wise mentor who, at the time, was helping us recognize our own fears and how we deal (or don’t deal) with them. We started to see that our fears weren’t much different than Silas’ fears. Financial instability or a skinned knee; another move or a stray dog; not knowing the future or not knowing where Mom is… fear is fear. And this helped us have more compassion on Silas. And on ourselves!
So we began learning together, passing on to him what we were learning about fear and practicing our new-found techniques together- deep breaths, counting to 20, retraining our brains to stop jumping to conclusions, role playing different ways we might handle something scary the next time. Somewhere along this journey we adopted the phrase Feel the fear and do it anyways. Though it probably has some gaps in its application, it has worked well for us as a family. If you were a fly on our wall you would often hear one of our kids saying to themselves or each other, “just take 3 deep breaths, feel the fear and do it anyway.” Or “I just built my courage!!!” It’s all pretty awesome.
Silas is now a brave, confident 6-year old who is less afraid of his emotions and more skilled to handle them. His parents are, too!
I think what I’m trying to communicate can most accurately- and beautifully- be summed up in this recent video of Silas. I’m thankful for the friend who happened to capture this moment, as I didn’t even know it was happening! You can really see the looming fear, the growing courage, and then the victory. Sweet victory! I hope you find it as encouraging as I did. And I would love to hear what fear-fighting tactics work for you and your family.