There was a little woodland area at the back of my primary school. It was “out-of-bounds” for students. I remember it like an ominous Bavarian forest from a Grimms fairytale, full of wicked and evil things that could swallow you whole. To a 5-year old girl with a busy imagination, this patch of overgrown ferns and Australian gum trees was the scariest place imaginable. I dared not venture inside.
As children, without the increased knowledge or experience to rationalise and put things in perspective, we find fear in lots of places. We learn from the world around us what is dangerous and what might hurt. And we pack up that fear and store it inside our bodies in order to keep us safe as we grow and explore the wider world. While many fears we hold onto have been useful over past generations to keep us safe from physical danger (fear of heights, of blood, of snakes & spiders), we also hold onto fears related to emotional risk. With emotions being our metric of how we are operating in our world and in the worlds of others, it was wise to for our ancestors to play it safe. After all, rejection and exclusion from our tribal communities would often mean death.
So we grow up. We get smarter and wiser. And assume we outgrow those fears – like old school shoes or Wiggles cassettes. Only a lot of the time, we don’t. Instead, those fears grow with us. We just develop new, more complex ways of understanding and rationalising them. For example, say you had an experience of rejection as a child, or witnessed another child get rejected. As an adult, you might, avoid situations where there is a possibility of rejection but rationalize it as “I’d rather keep to myself, instead of put myself out there and meet new people. I probably won’t like them anyway.”
The fear lives in our body, and it can be challenging to tap into on a cerebral level because we’ve grown up with it just being a part of us – just “a way we are”. This fear we packed up and stored inside when we were far more vulnerable and inexperienced, continues to dictate the choices we make in our grown-up lives. These choices might keep us safe, but they also keep us small. This fear often holds us back from living rich, vibrant and fulfilling lives.
Learning to listen to your body and how it viscerally reacts to different life challenges or opportunities can offer an introductory insight into understanding your fear a little better.
Seeing a counsellor or therapist is also a great way to develop greater insight into it. While it can be scary to confront at first, when we do, we often realise that the fear we were so afraid to face was not as huge and frightening as we imagined.
Just like when I visited my primary school once I was older. The humble patch of trees and overgrown foliage made me wonder what I ever saw in them that filled me with such unease. Seeing it for what it is, with wiser, more mature eyes made me realise I had nothing to be afraid of.
This post was written by our Content Producer, Ash. If it resonated with you, you might want to invest in reconnecting with your inner child. Click here to meet our therapists who can help you reconnect. Also note that this broad exploration does not apply in regards to childhood trauma and abuse. In such cases, it’s always best to get support from a psychologist. We have practitioners at Indigo who specialise in those areas.