Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

A Tale of Anxiety

I was talking to a mother of one of my students who has anxiety. She was telling me how hard it is for her to envision what it must be like for her daughter to be so genuinely afraid all the time. I, of course, was able to relate all too much with this feeling! I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life. I never considered someone who is not an overly anxious person might not understand what it’s like to be consumed by fear everyday. Here’s how I would explain it…

Imagine you’re surrounded by thorns. (I’m picturing something straight out of Sleeping Beauty.) If you stand really still and close your eyes to block out what’s around you, you’re fine. You feel comfortable and peaceful. You actually wouldn’t mind just sitting very still, but there’s a beautiful castle waiting just outside all of the thorn bushes, and you can see it’s glow from your little spot inside the thorny branches.

So, you try to carefully maneuver and control the thorns by moving them around just a little bit while wiggling underneath them, but you keep getting pricked. The more you move methodically, the more entangled you get. You hate nothing more than getting pricked. To end the pain, you stop and sit still again.

But you can’t stop thinking about the castle, and sitting still makes you feel empty inside. So you become consumed by the thoughts of visiting the castle. You remember the feeling of being pricked, though, and the fear of the pain keeps you from making any moves. Inside, you’re tortured by the never-ending battle between your desire to go to the castle and your avoidance of pain. Your thoughts become obsessive and frequent. Soon, sitting still is just as painful as moving.

If you didn’t know better, you might sit still forever just going back and forth between the two thoughts. But, after a while you begin to recognize what’s happening, and that might be the key to breaking free.

You see, the thorns don’t feel good at all. In fact, they stick right into your skin and the pain lingers for a while. But, they won’t actually kill you. Once you make it through the thorns, your reward will be worth the trouble they’ve caused.

So how do you break through? You feel the pain, feel the thorns sinking in, and in that moment also recognize the pain won’t last forever. Notice your fear is keeping you stable, but it’s keeping you from being happy and truly alive.

You walk knowingly into those thorns, feel the pain, realize you’re not dying, and keep pushing through toward whatever little bit of light you can find. Don’t let your mind talk you into turning back. Push right through that voice telling you to stay in your safe, still spot.

Because if you wait here in the thorns to avoid the pain, you’ll never reach your castle.
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