Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to be FEARLESS

For as long as I can remember I have been deathly afraid of bees and spiders.  I have almost gotten in accidents several times because of a bee or spider. (and when I say bee I mean any flying black and yellow insect that stings)  My neighbors have learned to ignore sudden screams from my yard.  They know I have just encountered one the the dreaded insects.  Once one of my neighbors saw me literally go crazy when a bee flew into my hair and got stuck.  There I was screaming and flailing my head all around like a crazy woman in melt-down mode.  It literally took me 45 minutes to recover afterward.  I was not stung.  My husband used to tease me that I would jump out of a moving car in order to get away from a bee.  I used to think he was wrong until one day I "thought" I heard a bee when we were on the freeway and I started panicking.  My husband calmed me and pointed out that it was a fly.  Then he pointed out where my hand was - right on the door handle poised to pull it open.  We were going 65 mph at the time.  What was I thinking??

I had put up with these irrational fears all my life.  Then I developed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from a traumatic accident my husband and I were in.  It developed gradually, but got worse and worse until I was afraid to ride anywhere in a car.  I considered staying home from important events, made my husband miserable on dates, (even to the extent of picking the closest restaurant in order to avoid driving) and made my children worried and nervous when I was in the car.  While I was at my worst point we had to drive an hour and a half away to my sister's wedding.   My family joked that maybe they should blindfold me and lay me down in the back seat.  In the end I kept my eyes closed the entire way there and back while I sang soothing songs in my head to distract myself.  That is when I knew I had to make a change.  That is when I knew I had to conquer fear or be debilitated for the rest of my life.  That is when I decided to fight back.

I began by researching my irrational fears.  I asked questions and read books.  I learned that if you feed fear it grows, but if you starve it, it dies.  I learned that if you ignore the fear and find something very creative to focus your mind on, that your mind will clamp onto the creative.   It can't be creative and fearful at the same time.  I was writing a book at the time, so  I began working on my book in my mind any time we drove somewhere.  My mind couldn't think about both the book and my fear at the same time.  The more I starved the fear, gradually the smaller it got.  I found that the creative focus could be anything! Planning a party, designing something, structuring goals, anything creative that would take all your concentration and imagination to work on!

This was a great technique in the moment, but I also really needed to get rid of the root of the fear.

Have you heard of a vision board?  It is basically a a goal with pictures. You place your pictures in some kind of boundary or frame. (frame meaning any border, even painter's tape in a square shape on the wall).  In this frame you put a picture(s) of what your goal is.  You also write positive words about your goal with your picture.  Then you spend 3 minutes first thing in the morning, and 3 minutes last thing at night looking at this image.  While you are looking at it you imagine that you already have it, what it feels like, what it smells like, what it tastes like, what it sounds like - using as many senses as possible.  Using a vision board I began to imagine myself in situations in which I was fearless.  Driving with no fear.  Having a bee land on me, feeling fearless.  Having a spider crawl on me, feeling fearless.

The next thing I did was come up with what is called a "declaration".  A positive statement that I say to myself loudly 3 times every day.  "I AM FEARLESS".  I stretched my arms out to the universe to declare with boldness that I was fearless!  The more I said it, the more my brain believed it.

I also wrote "because" papers.  This is an amazing technique to get to the root of what is going on in one's mind.  My first paper was called, "I am afraid because...." Then I just wrote and wrote whatever came to my mind.  24 hours later I went back and read what I wrote.  This gave me insight for a new "because" statement.  I did this 3-4 days in a row, reading what I had written the day before, and getting new insight as to what was really going on in my brain that led to a new dimension of what I was afraid of.  After 3-4 days of "because" papers I was able to really pinpoint the root of the problem, which then helped me resolve it.

During all of this I was also praying to be fearless.  In the Bible John 4:18 states that "Perfect love casteth out ALL fear".  Nobody wanted to cast out all fear more than I did.  I was so tired of living with it.  I studied this verse over and over.  It seemed to me that fear and faith were more likely opposites than fear and love.  After much study I realized that John meant love of God, or trust in God.  Perfect trust in God casteth out all fear.  I needed to trust God, believe that He was standing beside me, and that whatever happened would be okay because he can heal anything. I didn't need to be afraid.  The more I prayed for this, the stronger I became.

This is a lot of work to overcome fear.  I never would have done it if it had not gotten so bad.  It forced me to search for a solution.  I can tell you that today I can ride in a car without fear.  Most of the time I do not even think about it.  The bees and spiders are just starting to come out.  There was a spider on the ceiling the other day.  I got right up and killed it.  I was not afraid.  I even looked to at the toilet paper to make sure it was dead, and my skin didn't even crawl.  That was a new experience for me. The old me would have screamed and danced around begging for someone to kill it.  If no one was available to save me I probably would have sucked it up in the vacuum with the longest attachment, then left the vacuum on for 5 minutes just to make sure it was really dead.  I would have been totally creeped out.  I am truly NOT AFRAID for the first time in 50 years.  I feel sad that I have lived with crippling fear for so long  and let it control me.  Now I am in charge.  I AM FEARLESS.

If I can do it, so can you!