It occurred to me recently that most of our fears and complexes seem to follow similar patterns, like ripples on the surface of a pond. I'm no doctor, but it seems that if we look at fear of one thing, we might learn about how to deal with some of our other fears. Take fear of the dark, for instance. Lots of us deal with this fear as kids. Most of us let it go as we mature, only to be faced with it again as parents of small children who are afraid of the dark.
It's like we just blinked, had a baby, blinked again and BAM! Suddenly, there we are, dealing with our old fear again. Maybe, all those years ago, we got over this fear without a fight. Or maybe it was a long, painful, drawn-out process. Or maybe we never really let it go, not completely.
What do we say to our child about this fear? What are some of the suggestions we give them for dealing with this most basic of fears?
Well, one thing I always tell my daughter is to face her fears head on. In this case, that means to remember it's just the darkness that feels scary, nothing else. Right?
So, with that established, I ask her what the dark can really do to hurt us... Anything? I mean, how can the simple absence of light in a room really hurt us?
- We could trip over one or more of the 29,000 different toys / books / shoes / other random cr@p strewn across the floor of the bedroom and fall down. - We might bump into a piece of furniture or a door and get a bruise. - We might smack into each other and bump our funny bones...
Hahaha that might just make us laugh and forget all about being afraid of the dark!
Okay we could keep on going in this silly direction but you get the picture. It's not really the DARK that's scary, it's what might happen in the absence of light that scares us. Right?
So. How do we remedy this situation? What suggestions do we give our kids for dealing with their fear of the dark?
1) Well, the easiest solution is to turn on a light. The hall light, a night light, a light in the closet. While this may help alleviate the fear temporarily, it's really just a bandage and won't cure the fear.
2) Another fix is to complete a monster sweep before turning off the lights. I kid you not. This approach works wonders. Are there any monsters hiding under the bed, Mommy? Any lurking in the closet? Behind the big bookshelf? Nope. Okay, then we're all good.
3) One other possibility is to remind our child that darkness is just the opposite of light. Without it, we wouldn't know or appreciate light, couldn't rest and cool off and sleep properly. We can be very thankful for the dark because it really is our friend.
Whichever approach you choose to employ, I promise you it can be applied to many other fears with a pretty decent relevancy rate.
Don't believe me? Read on, if you dare:
1) Temporary fix / bandage: Take a shortcut around your fear. Pretend it doesn't exist. Turn on the lights in the face of darkness. Block out the very thought of it. See how long that works for you. (N.B.: this approach doesn't usually help kids get over their fear of the dark, either.)
2) Monster sweep: Shake up your fears by hitting them smack between the eyes. Root them right out of the closet, sweep them out from under the bed, call them out from behind the bookshelf. Show them the door, kick them to the curb. Never let them live in your head rent-free! They have no control over you because THEY ONLY EXIST IN YOUR IMAGINATION.
3) Make friends with your fear: Find some quiet alone time or sit with a person you trust and have a conversation with your fear, as if it is a living breathing person. You could also put this conversation in writing, as if you are sending your fear a letter. Ask your fear questions, thank it for giving you a lesson to learn and grow from, show it some respect for bringing you to your knees. And then tell your fear that although you are thankful for its presence in your life until now, for whatever reason, you can no longer spend time with it. You will just have to learn to live without each other. It will really be best for both of you. And then simply say, GOOD-BYE.
Okay, #3 may seem a bit weird, but it really does help... BTW, #2 is my personal fave. Works wonders.
And that, my friend, is where the ELASTICITY meets the road.