Tonight I watched a man overcome his fear of heights by being hoisted high in the air, and a woman put her hand in a bucket of worms although that was one of her biggest fears. The treatment for those phobias, a fear that is irrational and obsessive, is exposure therapy. It works.
At one time mountain roads terrified me. I clung to the car door or the hand grip in the car when we drove over Blood mountain. I wouldn't look over a precipice. But once I rode my own motorcycle down a steep mountain road, I no longer feared riding that curvy road in a car.
Wow, did that feel good. When we overcome that which held our emotions and our well-being captive, we feel as free as an eagle soaring over an Alaskan bay. We feel shame because of our fears and we don't talk about them, but talking about them and facing them head on is the only way to overcome. Writing about them is sometimes the first step.
I recently realized that I lived in the fight or flight mode even as a child.
What was I afraid of as a child? Snakes, the dark, bad people who might come in the night and harm my family, bad weather, and the death of my mother.
I didn't understand that those irrational fears were not normal. I don't know why I had such a fear of my mother's death. I didn't fear for my father.
Of course, I didn't think fear of snakes was uncommon. Mother deliberately frightened us.We lived in the country in south Georgia. Snakes lived in the barn, in the oak tree in our yard, under the smoke house, in the blackberry brambles, and she was scared we would be bitten.
Mother's words to my sister and me, were, "Run like crazy if you see a snake no matter what color or what size."
We saw a snake crawling on the oak tree, and we ran screaming to Mother. She came out and with a hoe chopped the snake to little pieces. We were told to stay clear of the reptile even after she cut off his head.
"Snakes don't completely die until the sun goes down, " She told us.
I admit the more I learned about snakes, the more mesmerized I became. In Sunday School I learned about the evil snake, the devil, in the bible. My skin crawled when I thought of a snake. It didn't help when my brother played on my fear and tossed a non-poisonous snake at me. He never thought it would wrap around my neck and knock me to the ground. Terrified and breathless, I ran for my mother. My brother still regrets that act and says he never meant for the snake to touch me.
All of my nights were scary. While my little sister slept beside me and my parents snoozed in the next room, I curled into a ball, tense with fear, unable to sleep. When the wind whipped the limbs of the big oak tree outside our window, I was sure a hurricane was coming and the tree was going to fall on our house and kill us.
A jacket hanging on the closet door turned into someone evil waiting for me to close my eyes. The sound of a distant train became the footsteps of an intruder approaching my room. Many nights I didn't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, when exhaustion overcame my fears.
I became obsessed about my mother's life when I started school. Something told me I needed to be with her and everything would be all right. This apprehension continued into my college years. I am now free of that fear. When she passed away, I was forty years old and I had to face my worst fear. I didn't think I would survive, but I did.
At this time in my life, I've been exposed to everything I feared, including my fear of flying, and I have survived. Even death has no sting.
Did you have childhood fears? How did you overcome your fears?
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