AROHI BHIMAJIANI writes about fear – how fears that develop at a young age can stay with us far into adulthood; and how her fear of dogs helped her to understand what helps us overcome fear.
Fear. It takes a million forms, doesn’t it? Right from that ghost under the bed, to standing at the diving board edge; from being spurned in love to not being well to do. Fear is our mind playing games with us, making assumptions and predictions. Its roots spread deep within us and vertically evolve into dread, anxiety, and panic.
It’s fascinating how these little seeds of fear are sown, and how they shoot up into the skies. Sometimes they mushroom and take on other shapes and forms.
More often than not, fear can be traced back to childhood incidents. And often they involve the fear of losing love, life, money, status, standing, etc.
How to let go of such deep-rooted fears?
Letting go of fear is easier as a child, because our patterns haven’t yet become rigid. We are still impressionable. I suffered from fear of heights as a kid. I was a good swimmer, but every time I stood on the diving board and looked down, I saw hissing snakes and jelly legs! In that moment, my natural “good swimmer instinct” would vanish. Yet I would jump. And with each jump, the intensity of the fear reduced.
Fear envelops every rational or instinctive feeling and replaces it with panic-stricken darts, most of which are baseless. As an adult, I find it so much harder to recognize fear and deal with it. Over the years, the layers of panic-stricken darts have only thickened. And yet I try.
I was petrified of dogs ever since I was little. I am unable to trace the feeling back to anything concrete, but as soon as a dog drew close, my mind and body froze. The very thought of its warm wet nose and mouth coming close to my feet or heels had me screaming.
For many years, I would not visit friends or family who had dogs unless they assured me that the dogs were on a leash. Generally, I preferred to meet them outside.
Once, I was invited to a friend’s house, and as I entered I was greeted by a gorgeous ebony-black Doberman. She was taller than me, with bright eyes, sharp and alert. I was about to turn around and go, but something about her gaze was positively hypnotic. I attempted to hide behind my husband, while my uncle, sensing my fright, held back the frightening yet majestic one.
I kept an eye on her, feeling paralyzed every time she’d enter the room. I was so full of fear that I could barely enjoy the conversations and the company. But, after some time, I was used to her walking around and started liking it. That’s when I got the fright of my life. She walked toward me and sat down on my feet. I froze. I was holding my breath to the point of fainting. I let it out, one puff at a time, praying that my heart would settle. I closed my eyes and began chanting a prayer until my breathing calmed down. As my hand untensed and hung loose, it in advertently rested on her abdomen.
That’s when I felt shock number two. I was blown away by how she felt. Alive, breathing, silky soft, yet muscle-hard; it felt like I had touched another being for the first time. My hand moved up and down her length like a puppet pulled by strings. Her face was turned away from me, and yet I knew she was as present and connected with me in that moment as any living being in its purest form could be.
Slowly the voices and room came into focus. What must have been a couple of seconds felt like a lifetime. I sat there for the rest of the evening, feeling both alive and at peace, sharing with this living being.
I have never feared dogs since – regardless of their shape, size, and how loudly they bark. I no longer run screaming in the opposite direction. Rather I feel drawn to them and, fascinatingly, them to me.
It simply took one pure soul to wrench the hardened ball of fear out of my gut. And maybe that is what we all need – a pure, unconditional loving relationship or shoulder, to help us transform our fears into a sense of love and peace. Or maybe to simply extend a caring hand to our scared selves, to hug it tightly and whisper sweet nothings until the fear is gone.
Love is and will always be the antidote to fear.