This is the Halloween season – a time when we claim it’s fun to be afraid. So, let’s take a look at some things which can strike fear in the heart of any man, or woman. Let’s take a brave look at anxiety. More specifically, let’s look at fear of the unknown.
Winnie-the-Pooh’s best friend, Christopher Robin, said, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” From Christopher’s perspective, the view of a child, even a short-in-stature, rotund, honey-seeking bear can change the world. Christopher and Winnie both sometimes doubted their own abilities to problem-solve and cope, but they firmly believed in each other’s strength and tenacity. So why can’t we all have such ‘fear-busting’ faith in ourselves? After all, when you’re feeling scared and anxious, as all of us do at times, ‘Who ya gonna call?”
Anxiety is one of those experiences we share with so many other warm-blooded creatures on this earth. We may think we have exclusive rights on anxiety, but that’s only our arrogance talking. I’d venture to say that every warm-blooded creature can relate to their own ‘blood running cold’ out of intense fear. So why can’t we cope with it in a healthier manner like so many of our fellow members of the animal kingdom? We refer to some animals as being “domesticated,” and we bring them into our lives as companions. Because, like us, such animals are social, tribal beings who cope best with their lives when they share their existence with others. From cats and dogs, to those creatures we label as ‘wild,’ the lions, tigers, and bears – many creatures improve their lives by seeking a way to share their world. We know joining forces makes reproduction possible, survival of the species and all, and it helps keep those mouths fed. But, also consider that part of the reason why animals band together, forming purposeful relationships, is that it helps them deal with their experience of anxiety. If you’ve ever left a dog alone in the house for a few hours and returned to find your pet busily re-potting your houseplants, you may have asked yourself ‘Why, oh why?’ The answer – ANXIETY.
Anxiety is to a very large extent just fear. Often, the worst anxiety one experiences is not fear of something specific, something identifiable, but a fear of the unknown. As any horror movie illustrates, fear of the unknown is always much more frightening than fear of the known. When I was a child, my fear of the bogeyman hiding under my bed was much scarier than any movie monster. When you’re facing Dracula or Frankenstein, you know that what you see is what you’ll get. So, logic may suggest just destroy those ‘Draculas’ and ‘Frankensteins’ plaguing you. But, if your plan is to rid your life of anything and everything that causes you anxiety – you’re doomed to fail. Because, with an irrational fear of the unknown, which for many of us is our preferred brand of anxiety, the terrible possibilities are endless. There is an up-side to this discussion. Although we cannot control much, if anything, in our lives, we can control how we react, how we respond to our anxious feelings. Managing anxiety is like managing anger – you learn ways to live with it, not how to eliminate it.
So though it may seem like you’re being followed as you take a short-cut down that poorly-lit alley, it’s probably just your anxiety – or is it?
More on anxiety to come. Have a fun and safe Halloween.