When it comes to fear in some ways I’m very fearless and in others I’m a scaredy cat. One of the highest ranked fears - public speaking - I quite enjoy. I don’t like having needles but they don’t really bother me. Heights, splinters, spiders, snakes and bugs in general, I’m not so good with.
When I was a little girl I would draw a squiggly line and then scream “snake!!!”. My brothers thought they had devised a brilliant way of keeping me out of their room when they were away at school and I was still home (they are 5 and 10 years older than me). They lined the entrance to their room with plastic creepy crawlies knowing that I wouldn’t go near them. This did work until I discovered tools - I’d get the broom out and sweep them away. Ha.
When we talk about treating fears in Psychology terms we talk about 2 approaches at opposite ends. (There are other approaches but these terms are helpful.) The first is systematic desensitization. If it was me with snakes, I might start with my squiggly line. Then draw a more realistic snake. Then look at pictures of snakes. Read about friendly, helpful snakes. Work my way up to looking at snakes in enclosures. Eventually I would touch and finally hold snakes.
The idea is that at each stage I would sit in the experience long enough to go from experiencing fear and anxiety to actually being at peace in the presence of the image of the snake. I am effectively retraining my brain to reinterpret the “flight” signal more correctly. (Yes, I know there are some dangerous snakes in Texas but if you run before you even look you can’t even describe the snake and don’t even know if it’s dangerous.)
The second method is called flooding. This is where you put me in a cage with a number of friendly safe snakes and I stay there until my fear has subsided and I’m “over” my fear.
Not many of us are brave enough to choose flooding. Both of my sons are fearless in their own ways - credit to them, all the way. My eldest son was nervous about public speaking (like most the world) so what does he do? Stand-up comedy at clubs! That is flooding. I like speaking but that’s scary to me!
So, with my fears of bugs, spiders, snakes and all creepy crawlies where do I move? To untamed land in Central Texas. I’m building a green, environmentally friendly venue with a commitment to sustainable practices including native species. I’d like that to come with only butterflies and birds though please. Haha.
So, I have welcomed my own version of flooding but thankfully it is kind of coming more like frequent opportunities for systematic desensitization. I can’t go outside without seeing creatures, I live in the country. Like it or not I deal with creatures. Strangely, what has helped me, is knowing that I have truly and firmly moved in to their territory. I can’t resent them for being in my space - I have come in to their space.
So, as you know, I’m going to ask you to think about a few things.
What do you want to get more free of?
What has been holding you back from enjoying your world or holding you back in your career?
If you are not ready for a flood perhaps you are ready for a small step. So, firstly, what would the area be to work on, then what would the first small step be?
I have recently gotten 2 feet from a Texas Garter snake and just stood there and looked. That’s huge for me and I’m celebrating by telling “y’all”. (Huge again, is me posting an image of a snake here below!)
Share your victories with me please!
Until next week,
Marilyn Orr is a Professional Certified Coach, who, through her coaching business “Capacity Building Coaching”, thrives on building both personal and organization capacity through leadership coaching and development.
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