Facing your Fears
I have always been a cautious person. Even in my childhood I used to think twice while answering a question in a test and calculate precisely where the next step would be while chasing a cricket ball. And I guess growing up this nature of mine has rubbed off pretty well into my thoughts that most of the decisions I make — either day-to-day petty ones or life-changing ones. Whenever I have to make a conscious decision, I think carefully, consider all the possible outcomes, go through various scenarios and calculate all the risks meticulously before I take the next step.
And to be honest I have lost a lot of opportunities because I was busy thinking while the opportunity just passed me by and I guess I am not too unhappy that I lost them.
The thing I am concerned though is that sometimes this cautious nature manifests itself in irrational fears. For example consider my all-of-a-sudden fear of biking. I have been a pretty avid biker. Ever since I bought my first bike three years ago, I have loved to just get on it and go away from the busy city life into the vast nothingness. As I am a cautious person, I do not usually ride fast and I like to let my bike smoothly embrace the road while I gaze at the horizon and let the wind blow through my hair (so to speak). But the last time a strange thing happened. All of a sudden I felt that my rear tyre was skidding and that I am about to fall. I stopped and checked the tyre and noticed nothing wrong with it, so I started riding. It’s when the same feeling came back repeatedly that I realised the problem is not in my tyre, it’s in my head!!
It’s scary how much your brain has control over your body. Even more scarier is the fact that even if you are aware there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You try to calm down or you try to to divert yourself, the fear springs back as soon as you even try to think about it. It’s the kind of irrational fear which cannot be reasoned with — I mean what can you tell yourself when your brain is making you feel that your rear tyre is skidding and your body reacts to it ?!! You, who have been doing this for years, have suddenly been rendered impotent in the face of a silly thought!!
Now that I think about it, fears like these aren’t uncommon. We all face such kind of fears on all proportions. Whether it’s the skidding of your tyres and losing your life or not making it in life or getting rejected by the person you love or losing someone important. And the most common answer given throughout history is that you overcome your fears. By practice or by trickery or whatever the way each person describes the solution. But what I have realised is, you can’t always overcome your fears. Sometimes your fears grip you so hard that you will not be able to shake them off. I mean, it’s the fear induced by the same brain which controls all of your body and you expect me to overcome it ?!! That’s ridiculous. It’s like how Milan Kundera explains vertigo — it’s not the fear of falling from heights, it’s the fear that you will want to. How are you going to reign in the monster you yourself set loose ?
So what you do now ? I know this sounds crazy, but the only thing you can do is just live with them- no fighting, no accepting, no subjugating or no capitulating. Just live along with them. Of course, sometimes you can’t help but succumb and sometimes you just forget them as you grow but when the fear becomes incessant, the only rational thing to do is just let them be.
So what did I finally do with my fear of biking? I just let it be. I wore my jacket, put on my helmet and got back on the road again.
And what do I do with my fear? Every time it resurfaces, I tell it “Not now dear friend, not now.”
I guess in the end, it’s not about overcoming your fears but just living with them.