Fear Disguised As Your Brain

To an eight year old, a horse can be either fantastic or frightening.

To Dillon, a horse was The Shining type of frightening.

The other five kids in my group at camp couldn’t wait to ride a horse, but not Dillon.

As we walked up to the stable, Dillon took one look at the horses and hid behind my legs.

Recognizing that he was scared, but not wanting him to miss out on his only chance to ride a horse at camp, I encouraged him to give it a try and asked him if he was sure he did not want to ride.

His exact words were, “I am not getting on that thing.”

To Dillon, that’s exactly what a horse was…a thing. A thing he wanted no part of.

To help him see that the horses weren’t so scary, I started petting one of them. I asked Dillon if he wanted to join me and he reluctantly agreed.

“These things are soft,” he said after stroking one of the horses.

“Now that you see how soft they are, do you want to try and ride one?” I asked.

Dillon took a minute to answer. He squinted up his face with a painfully, confused expression and said something I will never forget.

“I want to try but why is my brain telling me no?”

I was taken aback by his comment and didn’t know how to respond.

What a mature and introspective thing for a terrified eight year old to say.

I can’t remember exactly what I said next. I think it was something along the lines of, “come on, you can do it” as if I was a little league coach talking to a player with two strikes.

My response in no way matched the magnitude of his question.

Looking back, this poor kid really believed that his brain was telling him not to do something he wanted to do. I can see why he was so confused. After all, his brain was supposed to be on his team, not against him.

Given another chance to answer his question, I would tell him that it wasn’t his brain telling him no. It was fear disguising itself as his brain.

I should have explained that his brain was telling him yes, ride the horse, but fear was the one telling him no.

I’ve read a lot about fear, but it wasn’t until this experience with Dillon and the horse that I realized this type of power fear has.

Fear can be so powerful that we think it is really our brain telling us not to do something we want to do.

For an eight year old (or a 28 year old or a 58 year old) it can be difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference.

What is the thing that you want to do, but are afraid to try? Are you convinced that your brain is telling you not to?

Despite my little league caliber answer, Dillon somehow mustered up the courage to ride the horse.

He was still scared to death, but he wasn’t going to let his brain, or fear (or whatever it was), prevent him from his only chance for a horseback ride.

I know it may sound too made-for-TV, but not only did Dillon get on the horse, but at the end of the ride he immediately wanted to do it again.

To an eight year old, a horse can be either fantastic or frightening.

To Dillon, it became fantastic all because he shut up his fear and started listening to his brain.

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