There is nothing more wonderful that taking an impossibly long hot shower while the landlord foots the bill. This was my intent, until an event transformed my glorious shower into a cage match.
The blistering hot water streamed down and I looked up, squinting through the cascade to realize that I was not alone. I was joined in my tiny, time-worn shower by one of the most unwelcome guests: arachnid. He began to descend into my personal space bubble when a wave of terror overcame me, adrenaline came to my aid and I triumphantly killed the little beast, sending him into a watery grave.
Had I not seen him I would have had the absurdly long shower I envisioned. I’m sure Spidey McLotsoflegs would have minded his own business and probably killed a few bugs in the process for me. But one thing changed that: fear.
This weekend was similarly more eventful than I had hoped. After giving Dakota a few days off as I was out of town, I rode out into the field with a couple friends. I was tense, feeling her explosive attitude which was not unexpected after a few days without work. She was ready to go. My fear of her violent behavior was what stoked the fire. She felt how tense my muscles were, how unwilling I was to go with her movement, and how desperate I was to feel in control. After witnessing one friend get dumped by her horse (a very minor fall), we continued deeper into the field walking around and enjoying the sunshine. Nearing the woods, instinct become too much for Dakota to handle- in her true skittish form she spooked. Had I actually slept the night before I might have stayed on.
This wasn’t the case.
180 spin + bolt + bucking = rider bail. There was a point where I realized, and verbalized, that I wasn’t going to regain control and I knew, one way or another, I was coming off. Adrenaline once again took over- in a matter of seconds I dropped my remaining stirrup, picked a side and bailed. I landed with minor injuries and Dakota stopped after throwing a few more good bucks to ensure the imaginary horse-eating panther was gone. She calmly allowed me to get back on, no (significant) harm done. Admittedly I feel like I was hit by a train, but other than that I’m whole.
The cause of that mess? Fear. First mine, then hers. Her instincts are fight or flight, in this case she flew and then fought with bucks. When God was giving out instincts her reply was “make hugs, not war”.
And here’s the difference between my horse and I: I can overcome fear with logic. She can’t. The only way to get around fear in equines is desensitization or distraction- neither of which was being employed Sunday evening.
Fear is debilitating. FDR worded it so beautifully in his famed quote ” the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, he continues, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts…”
Had I been unafraid, I wouldn’t have been tense. I would have been like jello, she would have felt the calm and probably been more confident. Because of fear, she was scared and it spread. She reacted.
Aside from being a handicap, fear can also be an incredible tool. As humans we naturally have fears that keep us from doing really idiotic things. Scroll through a few of the Darwin Awards and you’ll find a multitude of people that didn’t have quite enough fear in them. Fear of heights, speeding cars, creepy looking bugs, snakes, animals with giant teeth… these are healthy. Going and playing with sharks is ill-advised and there aren’t many people who want to do this… except the Irwins.
Physical fears are probably the easiest to identify, but not the most common. Fear of rejection? Conformity is a powerful phenomena and is powered by none other than our lovely enemy, fear. If we let fear overcome us, we would never try for that grant, ask that person on a date, speak out about an injustice, apply to that school or try to achieve, well, anything. Don’t be an atychiophobe.
And here’s the amazing part- because we can use logic and reasoning fear is a choice. We can allow our minds to run rampant and take over our actions, often falling into paranoia. However, we have a choice- we can choose to mentally fight the terror and change our environment to resolve the issue (sorry Spidey- you had to go). Of course there are times when fear is justified and maybe even helpful but often in our day to day ordinary lives it’s unwelcome. We don’t need it.