If I feel any ounce of uncertainty about something, it probably terrifies me to do it. I hold a fear of the unknown.
Okay there I said it.
And I know I’m not the only one who has thought this at one point or another. We are creatures of intelligence, we LOVE to know things. We like to be prepared for what we think is about to come, we like to see an activity all the way through knowing exactly what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, how we’re going to do it – we like to be in control.
When we’re not, we feel anxious. We become scared, we panic. We try to predict the unknown and soon we grow a fear of the unknown. This fear just breeds even more fear.
Our desire for control is an illusion of safety; we think that this is helping us when really it brings on a lot of anxiety.
When we know what’s happening or what’s to come, there’s nothing we need to be on guard for. We do this to try to feel peace, when really, this control figure is not very good at opening the door and inviting peace in. So what’s to learn from this?
Walking into the Unknown
I remember stepping on my second plane ride, ever. I don’t remember the first because I was 5 and I’m sure everything was exciting back then. But at 16 knowing I was about to step on this aerodynamic vessel that will shoot me through the sky 40,000ft above the planet to a tropical destination in 5 hours, I was a little on edge. Okay, very much on the edge of my seat with a white-knuckle grip to the seat handle and my friend’s hand beside me. The only thing I knew I was in control of was the level of tightness on my seatbelt. I prayed these pilots didn’t spend their college years on a rotating cycle of drunk & hungover, using the power of luck and photographic memory to get through their exam. I was praying they knew their shit.
Needless to say I survived the take off, actually began to enjoy the view once we were no longer in what felt like a vertical zoom toward the clouds, and further decided I actually liked this new perspective. However, I’m still a little on edge when the aircraft begins to shake mid-air but we’re working on that. I met a pilot once and he informed me that the aircraft is built for it which has become my new sentence of peace.
Anyway, this whole experience has formed a huge love/hate relationship with airplanes & flying. I love the new perspective, the feeling of calming peace being that high above all of the craziness down on earth & getting to see lands I would otherwise never see. The dislike comes from the feeling of not being in the drivers seat, not knowing what’s happening or what’s going to happen. I don’t understand what is happening and when it is happening, I have no clue WHY the seatbelt sign suddenly appears mid-flight and the plane starts to shake in all directions, nor do I know what’s going to happen. 9 times out of 10 the sign just goes off after a few minutes and everything goes back to normal, but you know when the fear pops in it will try to convince you that there is about to be a tragedy for as long as you let it.
Now, I share this story because I sense you’re probably wondering why I wouldn’t just accept what happens on the aircraft and trust the pilots, and this is where I make the analogy that you are the pilot of your life and when you aren’t in a space of trusting yourself and accepting whatever happens – we tend to live life on the very edge of our seat with a tight grip to the seat handle. How much more uncomfortable does that sound compared to trying?
When you live life that way you might be needing daily massages to ease up all that tension you’re holding on to.
Embracing the Fear of the Unknown
Remember back when I talked about how fear is our biggest security guard, out here living to protect us. If you missed that one, you can find it here.
When you can acknowledge when a fear starts to creep in and take charge of your wheel, you know it’s just coming in to try to protect you in one way or another. The more aware of this you are, the easier it will be for you to logically assess the situation and reassure this fear that you’re not actually in danger, and it doesn’t have to remain on stand-by.
This, would be embracing it. You know why it’s there, you know what it’s trying to do, and in that moment you can confirm “I’m okay, I’m safe”.
Going back to my love/hate relationship on airplanes, my fear likes to assume tragedy at any single point of a flight to ensure that if it strikes, my brain is already prepared to unleash that oxygen mask and inflate the life jacket. Now I’m being a bit dramatic but you get the point. This is the brains fight or flight response, which is preparing you to either flee the situation, or fight. Knowing very well I wouldn’t be able to flee a flying aircraft, I have my gloves on stand-by ready to fight. And trust me, buying into this thought that I need to be prepared at the ring makes a flight so much more uncomfortable.
Now that I’m aware of this, I can logically assess and reassure myself that a tiny bit of turbulence isn’t going to send the aircraft straight into the ground, and that it’s normal and everything’s okay (“the aircraft is built for it, the aircraft is built for it”). I can thank my fear for looking out for me in the very slim chance that anything tragic were to happen, and go on with my flight in peace, allowing myself to fully and completely enjoy the best parts of it.
For those of you who need some practical steps to help you embrace your fear, here’s a list of steps to try:
*note that not all will apply; take what feels good to you and leave what does not.
- repeating positive affirmations
- track what your fears are so you know when they might pop in
- relax your body, remind yourself to be taking slow deep breaths
- lavender essential oil or other calming scents
- recognize that your fear is an illusion trying to predict things
- ask yourself what could be more true about what your fears might be trying to predict
- immerse yourself in an enjoyable activity; whether that be a movie, reading a book, a podcast, music, drawing, etc
- talk about it with others if it feels best to you to let it out. let this fear exist outside of you as it is not a part of you
When we learn that we’re not our fears, it’s easy to reclaim our bravery. Every single human on this planet is brave. We have all been brave and we are all capable of being brave; we often just let our fears jump in the way and we mistake that for our identity. We think we’re not brave because we’re scared of things. Now that we know that’s false, it’s easy to move forward.
So even the seemingly shitty feelings we have, our fears, our worries, even our good feelings & excitements – we have something to learn from them.
Now, I’m sure you’re prepared for a nice long list of steps of how to carry out this process, but the ball starts rolling with only one simple step.
Simply being aware of what is happening and when it is happening; you don’t even need to know why (unless you remember that fear is just looking out for ya) – you are able to choose to shut it down and move on.
And yes, it really is as simple as that. Observe your thoughts like a story book that you’re in charge or re-writing at any time.
The pen is in your hand daily, write a good one!
And remember, you got this.