I’ve been thinking a lot about fear, lately. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I’ve also been trying to take risks, to do things in the face of fear. Earlier this week, I found this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. I thought it perfectly described my goal, my wish for myself…
These thoughts of fear have led me to a realization. I have always assumed fear was bad. That to be scared was somehow less than ideal. That I should not let my children feel fear, that I should protect them from this emotion at all costs.
This line of thinking, I realized, is faulty. Fear is not the enemy. It’s what you do in the face of fear that counts!
I believe O began his life in anxiety and fear. I’ve told the stories before of his infancy and the terror he exhibited, even from the slightest movement. He entered toddlerhood with fear. As he began walking, he began to fear navigating objects, stairs, unfamiliar environments. Although, he has never verbalized these fears to me, I observed them, I could feel them.
Consequently, I found myself doing many things to protect him, to keep him from experiencing that fear. Even though I took him to Occupational Therapy, so he could “get better” and I trusted the OT and her expertise more than I trusted myself, I still cringed every time she made him get on the swing or touch the paint. Especially, when he would run to me crying, needing comfort, I thought, “What am I doing?” But, I continued, despite my fear and because of his.
Now, that I have a greater understanding of O’s fears, I realize that his fears are really a side effect. A side effect of his dysfunctional sensory processing. Because everyday experiences may appear uncomfortable or unpredictable to him, he responds with generalized anxiety.
So, for O, the appearance of fear begins as a physiological response, then becomes emotional. I think the opposite is true for most of the rest of us. I know for me, the emotion of fear, although it may begin as only slight discomfort, can often turn into that physiological flight-or-fight response. Mostly flight, in my case, where I feel the need to avoid a certain situation or person. But, I think that there is another face of fear.
In Proverbs, we are told that the fear of the Lord “teaches wisdom,” is the “fountain of true knowledge,” and “leads to life.” Also, Psalm 128:1 says, “How joyful are those who fear the LORD – all who follow his ways!”
While fear can mean dread or apprehension, in can also mean “to stand in awe.” In other words, to have respect for something, knowing that it is beyond your reach. Instead of being puffed up, or showing pride, we need to be reverent, to recognize the power that some people or things have over us, knowing that some fear is healthy, even helpful. It can lead to growth, knowledge, and even a fuller life.
As a mother, I believe I will always be more sensitive to the fears of my children, especially O. But, I am trying to recognize the value of those fears, so that I don’t play supermom, trying to step in and save the day, whenever there is the slightest presence of fear. I also want to remain aware of how O experiences the world, so that I can help him navigate through life, in the face of fear.
Through a set of tragic and heart-wrenching experiences this week, I have also come to discover that my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing God provides me with the the lenses that I view this world. It is because of Him, His sacrifice, and His promise that I have the freedom to live despite my own fears, and the hope that I can conquer them, one day at a time.