When my oldest daughter was little, she was afraid of everything! She was afraid of the dark. She was afraid to let me wash her hair. At the mall, she was so afraid of the escalator that she had major melts downs and caused a scene on more than one occasion. Well, she is her mother’s daughter. I am afraid of spiders. I am afraid of heights. Right now, I am afraid I will never lose the weight I gained during the lockdown.
According to researchers at Harvard Medicine, the human brain is hard-wired to sense fear and run. Or freeze. Or fight. But if you ask me, Moms are the ultimate subject matter experts on fear. We deal with fear every day. Our kiddos are afraid of monsters and the boogeyman. Thanks to 2020 we can add a global pandemic, a rise in violent crimes, and fighting over masks to the ever-growing list of what to be afraid of.
I am a therapist who specializes in trauma. I had a client once who endured horrific abuse in her childhood. She said she wasn’t scared of being physically harmed. She had survived that, somehow. She explained it like this…if you are in a closet, it’s terrifying. You are afraid of all of the things you cannot see. But when you open the closet door, you realize it was just coats and umbrellas and shoes and stuff.
What we fear is the dark, the things that go bump in the night…the unknown, unseen and uncertain. Horror movies scare some people but the scariest movie I’ve ever seen was “The Happening.” In that movie, by M.Knight Shyamalan something happens resulting in countless deaths but no one ever really knows what happened. What made Covid 19 so scary is that it was novel, new, unknown.
I took a very unscientific poll on social media asking “What are you really afraid of?” The answers were things like dying or being unloved, and many many many future-oriented fears…all fears related to the unknown. We’re afraid of what might happen or could happen. And let’s face it, what could happen did happen. How do we not fear the unknown when all our worst fears about unknown disease, uncertain financial stability, unheard of climate change, and the unknown amongst us all come to fruition? 2020 was the bogeyman and he came, saw, and beat us all up.
In the spring of 2020, after Breonna Taylor was murdered, I would sit up in my bed at night afraid the police would burst into my home by accident and kill me in my own bed. The fear was gripping. It wasn’t rational I know and it was debilitating. I knew I was afraid of the police because I didn’t know them. To me, and many people of color, police are the unknown…the bogeyman. So I reached out to the police department with my concerns about police brutality. I didn’t stop being afraid of them, I didn’t let being afraid stop me from reaching out to them. Through that process, I have come to know many officers with the Zionsville Police Department. We are different in many ways. We have different life experiences and come from different backgrounds. Different is only scary when it seems different is all there is. What I realized is, we have more in common than different. So the unknown became known and I’m not afraid of them anymore.
When your little one is afraid of the monster hiding under the bed, what do you do? You take them by the hand, get on your hands and knees, and look under the bed to show them that there is nothing there, nothing to fear, or at the very least it’s not as scary as it seemed in the dark. So, I invite you to open the closet door and call out your fear. But first I’ll share mine… I am afraid of messing up everything! But I am more fearful of doing nothing. I’m afraid of being vulnerable but I am more afraid of not living a wholehearted life. I’m afraid of rejection but I am more afraid of not being seen, known, and loved.