“There are two definitions of FEAR:
- Forget Everything and Run. OR
- Face Everything and Rise.”
Two weekends ago I spent one night backpacking in the George Washington & Thomas Jefferson National Forest. This was a novel backpacking experience for me, because I decided to try going with no tent or hammock. Just a sleeping bag on the ground. I figured it was cold enough out there that we would not have any bugs, and if we did our part cleaning up the campsite there shouldn’t be any animals wondering about. That assumption could not have been more wrong….
After the campfire died down I laid on the ground, with my book in hand and tried to get some reading in with my headlamp before falling asleep. I was horizontal for about 5 minutes when I heard the leaves rustling behind my head. I turned around, only to find a gigantic FIELD MOUSE. This was a courageous mouse, not only did it keep approaching me after I had the light on, but it kept coming back after I had tried to scare it away. So there I was, a 6 foot 3 inch, 200lb mammal kept awake with a racing heart by a rodent that was likely less than one pound. I even considered walking the 8 miles back to the car in the dark so I could get some rest.
Of course, when you break this down rationally nothing bad actually was going to happen; but because this was new to me, the rational side of my brain was not working. This is exactly how fear works in our daily lives.
Two fears that I have overcome in the past 5 years have been public speaking and the tough conversation. The secret? Inoculation. Both of these modern fears stem from the deep instinct to be accepted by the tribe. In order for the rational side of the brain to do its job, we need to get the repetitions needed to realize that nothing bad is actually going to happen. This is exactly why I joined ToastMasters, and train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In ToastMasters, you get the opportunity to have a low-stakes public speaking experience every two weeks. In BJJ, you get to struggle against someone for four minutes and then shake hands with them and say thank you with a smile.In both experiences it forces you to face your fears and get the repetition.
I hope I don’t have more encounters with mice that will help me get over my fears of them crawling into my sleeping bag, but I know if I were to overcome the fear the secret would be to get back out there.
Mouse by Nina Sandgaard Rasmussen from the Noun Project