It's that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the raise in heart rate, the shortness of breath, and the trembling of your hands. You know it when you feel it, and it drives away your desires. It's a monster, and one that threatens so many of us.
But how to get over it? You can't just rush headlong into it, and say "move over buddy, coming through!". While that's what everyone tells us to do, it doesn't work like that. The reactions we feel as fear, are the same reactions that prevent that type of action. How do you try when your body screams to run away?
I've always had fear. I personally think that anyone who doesn't it lying, or broken. In the past, my fear was minor, and never stopped me. Sure, I knew that climbing on a green horse could have a bad end, but it was worth it to me. I knew I could get bucked off, broken, permanently injured, or what ever, but I could control the physical reactions, and still move forward. Since my accident, I haven't been nearly as successful.
For me, my fear has been all about being under a horse's hooves. It doesn't matter if it makes sense, but if my mind can make the leap to me some how ending up under the horse, the fear comes out. Riding Boo on a windy day can trigger it. I know he's stable and a safe ride, but I know that windy days tend to make horses spook more, and that's all my little brain needs. It starts ticking away, out of control:
It's windy, you'll get to the back side of the arena, and the long grass will blow, and he will spook. He'll spin, dropping you on the ground, and then bolt right over you, and there's nothing you'll be able to do to stop him. Just stay off of him, because it WILL happen. You will die, shattered into a thousand pieces under the hooves of your beloved horse, with your family sitting there watching, forever traumatized.
Yes, that is how my fear gets to me. Boo is a saint of a horse. He can take a joke, and keep on going, and he rarely spooks. When he DOES, he never bolts. So what makes me think that will happen? Maybe because I know it COULD? I honestly don't know.
I had a friend tell me that I should stop saying I am afraid. I am not sure that I agree with this. Her thinking is that if I say I am afraid, then I will be afraid. My thinking is that I am already freaked out, so why hide it?
Oh sure, I could fake it. Sometimes I feel like that is what I should be doing, just suck it up, and get back on the horse! But trying to do that, and finding that I was unable to, left me in tears. The harder I tried, and the less I was able to do, the more I felt like a failure.
Feeling like a failure saps my self confidence. The less confidence I have, the less I am able to progress, so instead of battling my fear, I try to battle my confidence. I do what I can, and always try to add in one thing that is "new" or that causes me a small amount of anxiety. But does she have a point? Does saying "I'm afraid" make me more afraid?
Does ignoring it make me more brave?
What is bravery anyways? Is it overcoming your fear, or is it never having felt it in the first place?
So what is fear, and when is it really ok to say it's fear? For me, it starts with butterflies in my stomach, my heart rate increases, and my breathing gets shallow. If I try to push it, I feel the tingling in the back of my throat, and my hands shake. I want to leave, I want to do something else, ANYthing else, so long as I'm not doing THAT. I start to feel the desire to cry - and I'm not a weepy person by nature - and then I feel shame at being so weak. The more I push, the more it builds on itsself, and the worse I feel about who I am. Things that shouldn't matter become bigger then they are.
It may start with feeling fear of the canter, and end up with being sure that I can't care for my horses at all properly, and should just give them all away. The harder I push at my fear, the harder it pushes back at me. If I let it, it seeps into everything, eating away at my pride, and my feelings that I can do something, ANYTHING right.
But when I face it head on, and say "Yeah, I'm afraid of doing that...... but it's ok to be afraid" then it loses power. Fear is a monster that wants to eat away at us, but if you starve it, it dies off. At least for me. I simply don't do what I am afraid to do. I don't try to battle it head on, but instead work around the problem, and I find that I make more progress.
If I'm scared to pick a horse's feet, then I have some one else do it. If I watch, and can SEE that it is ok, then I will try. Sure, the horse's feet are clean now, but that isn't my goal. Rather, I simply want to see if I can really pick up that hind foot. When I do, I feel proud. I feel like I made a step, and I feel like I am in control.
What do you think? Is it better to tackle fear head on? Does it work for you to sneak up on it? Or is it better yet to completely avoid it all together? What makes you afraid, and how have you been coping with it?
And what do those around you think about how you are trying to cope with it?
Every Friday is going to be dedicated to fear issues. Many of my own, and any one who is willing to put theirs out there. Have a problem with something, ask in the comments, and I might make it the subject of next week's Fear Friday (Because it can't be all about me!). Post anonymously if you'd like. I know there are a lot of us who are dealing with this, and for me, having the support of those around me, both real and virtual, has been so helpful. By coming together, maybe we can all conquer our fears together.