In his inauguration speech John F. Kennedy recited a line that became famous when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. At the time, it seemed the country was living in a state of fear regarding the cold war crisis. People were certain atomic bombs were going to be dropped by the Russians at any moment and they built bomb shelters and kids were taught how to hide under their desks at school.
In his address, the president was trying to remind people that you can’t let fear dictate how we live and that when we do so we will either act irrationally or freeze up and do nothing. As it turned out, those bombs were never dropped and those bomb shelters are now sitting empty and most likely deteriorating.
It seems like, from time to time when things in the world get a bit crazy, many of us become fearful and panic once again reigns. If you’ve seen political adds, many play up to these fears with slogans of “if so and so wins jobs will be lost, you and your kids won’t be safe and we need to separate ourselves from outsiders and folks not like us because they are bad. It just doesn’t seem to me to be a positive way for us to live.
One of my favorite movies is “What About Bob”. In the beginning Bob Wiley meets with his new psychologist Leo Marvin. After Bob outlines all of the things he’s afraid of, Leo asks, “So Bob what is it that you’re really afraid of”? In the end those things he said he was afraid of weren’t what he truly was afraid of after all.
I had a difficult time watching the movie at first because at differing periods in my life I had pretty much suffered from most of the things Bob described. It had gotten so bad at one point that I experienced anxiety attacks on almost a daily basis and could barely function. (more of this is in my personal story Chicken of The Sea)
When I finally got help I realized that most of the things that I thought were making me feel the way I did were not the real reason at all. The problem was I just couldn’t put my finger on it. In the end what I realized was that I was afraid of failing in my responsibilities to my family, being rejected and abandoned and also that I might be all of the negative things my parents said I was.
Like Bob, it took my getting to the “death therapy” stage, or in my case a severe burn out, to get a handle on things, change my way of thinking, improve my self image and worth and to stop being fearful so I could become healthy.
The other day I surfed with my buddy Todd who is a relatively rookie surfer. The day was the biggest he had ever faced as a surfer and although he was, at first, terrified of paddling out, he overcame his fears and even paddled into the biggest wave of his life.
The experience was seemingly life changing for Todd and one that gave him a real lift and sense of accomplishment.
It reminded me of the time back in high school when I had to overcome my fear of drowning, after a near death experience earlier in my life, and paddle out into the surf for the first time.
Overcoming my fears that day was truly life altering for me and opened the door to a lifetime of fun and enjoyment out in the ocean. I believe that event was one of the things that gave me the confidence to overcome my other fears at various times in my life and I have to wonder what would have become of me if I hadn’t paddled out that day.
The other day I pulled up to a stop light and the car next to me had two young kids in the back with the windows down. The little girl smiled so I smiled back and waved. I then heard the mother tell the little girl to roll up her window so I couldn’t get her. The little girl said, “he can’t because my door is locked. The light then changed and they sped away.
I thought that was sad and it made me realize just how fearful some people are of strangers and things in general and I was left wondering “is this where we are headed as a society”? I can see being careful but shutting out people just doesn’t seem to me to be a good, healthy or enjoyable way to live.
So I suppose the question for us all is “What are we REALLY afraid of”?
Thanks for checking in, have a great week and I will look forward to seeing you back here again next week.