Have a Little Courage
Oh, October. The second month of autumn where the weather gets cold, the clouds cry on us more often, the leaves turn brown and crinkle, and—of course—Halloween (a holiday that I have mixed feelings on) takes place. On one hand, Halloween is a fun night where you can go out, wear different costumes, and essentially get sugar for free. But on the other hand, TV likes to celebrate Halloween by putting on horror flicks that (especially for children) make us afraid and give birth to phobias.
Fear is inevitable. Whether we're willing to admit it or not, we're all afraid of something. I have yet to meet someone who didn't fear anything. Most of us are afraid of something physical, such as spiders, dogs, and I've even met a few people who are afraid of Santa Claus. To a degree, all of us are afraid of certain ideas, such as closed spaces, socializing, and the number thirteen. So to an extent, fear is perfectly normal. But a phobia is another story.
A phobia is defined as “an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger.” What makes a phobia different from a fear is how a phobic will respond to what he or she is afraid of. Take social phobia, for example. It's normal to feel a little anxious when meeting someone new or giving a speech. A social phobic will go to whatever lengths necessary to avoid anything that forces him into the spotlight. He may sit in a corner away from everyone else or get sick so that he won't have to give a speech. Once a friend of mine tried to pretend to have laryngitis in the hopes that she wouldn't get called on in class.
Sometimes, extreme fear involves making something a lot scarier than it actually is. I still remember a few years ago when the swine flu broke out. Nobody knew how to deal with it at first, but everyone was afraid. Every time someone in my class had to miss a day, the other kids blamed it on the swine flu. As I was a junior in high school, I was a little worried but not as much as everyone else in my class. My mom came down with the swine flu around that time, and a few days later she felt just fine.
So how can you get over a phobia? Well, whatever it is you're afraid of, there's a few steps you can take.
1. Face the phobia one step at a time. Expose yourself little by little to whatever it is that you're afraid of. For example, if you're afraid of dogs, start by looking at dogs in pictures and TV, slowly expand that to watching a dog in real life, and slowly end with petting a real dog.
2. Learn relaxation techniques. Take a deep breath. Hold it in for a few moments. Slowly release it until all of the air is out. Then repeat. It's impossible to feel relaxed and anxious at the same time.
3. Challenge negative thoughts. If you find yourself stuck in scenarios where things could go wrong, try to rationalize it as much as you can. You may need a friend to help you with this.
In an article from Psychology Today, Dr. Fredric Neuman talked about how he got over his fear of water by learning how to swim. While taking those swimming lessons at the pool every day, he came up with six ideas to remember when getting over phobias:
1: In order to overcome a phobia, the affected person has to spend time publicly trying to do stuff that everyone else can do effortlessly.
2: Practicing overcoming a phobia takes time, sometimes a lot of time. And repetition.
3: The situations phobics are afraid of are not so awful when they actually happen.
4: Judge progress by what you can do, not by how you feel.
5: Phobics run into “stuck points” from time to time. Using an aide or having someone to help you makes all the difference.
6: Sometimes the very phobias we're afraid of give us the most satisfaction when we are no longer afraid.
Courage requires acknowledging your fears but still choosing to act on what's important. And if at first you don't succeed in getting over a phobia, keep trying. Martin Luther King Jr. put it best when he said that “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Don't be afraid to live your life. We've got one chance to make an impression. So let's make the most of it.