Fear is a dragon we must slay

by Annelise Mitchell February 01, 2016

Fear is a dragon we must slay

Imagine there is a dragon, and I’m not talking about the Disney-friendly type either, but a nasty, fierce dragon.

He may even be a mutant-of-sorts, a demon-like beast. Whatever he is, he is nasty and brutish!

And imagine that he is with you everywhere you go. He is there when you wake up. He is there as you go about your day and, worst of all, he is there when you go to bed.

He ignites so much fear in you, that you feel paralysed by him. Like a cat, who is being chased by a pack of wild dogs, and realises there is nowhere else to run, you feel like falling to the ground, waiting to be devoured like helpless prey.

Why imagine this dragon?

This dragon is the perfect metaphor for the fearful thoughts that plague our lives.

When we are frightened by our fears, we walk around always feeling like they can pounce on us at any moment if we let our guard down, even for a second.

Like the imaginary dragon, our fear does not leave us alone. It won’t. Until we realise why it is there, why it hangs around like there is nowhere else to go, and why we must develop the courage of a dragon-slayer if we are to realise our potential.

Let’s look closer at this dragon (our fear)…

He’s not a real dragon, but he is made up of the fearful thoughts that live in our imaginations, where we fear what may happen in the future, and even predict the worse from happening.

Most of all, he is the reason we fear doing what we are capable of. We believe his constant declarations that we are weak, not smart enough, not brave enough, not enough of anything…

If we think of doing something that is outside of our safe zone, we immediately feel anxious, the dragon rears its ugly head and convinces us that whatever we desire, or hope for is out of our reach. We are better off not trying at all. This is when the dragon (our fears) have us held firmly within its clutches.

What we need to realise is that all the things we are fearing do not exist, they are figments of our imaginations. They, like the dragon, feel real, terribly real, but when critically examined, are merely thoughts we are having about the future, things that have not even happened and most likely never will.

Where did these fearful thoughts come from?

They come from our childhood.

We all develop ways of thinking when we are little, and this is often modelled by the adults around us. If we see our mother (or father) avoiding challenging tasks, and expressing fears about their future, we will do the same. Anxiety is contagious.

What happens if we continue to believe our fearful thoughts (the voice of the dragon)?

We won’t live life to the full. We will avoid anything challenging, ensuring that we never go outside our comfort zone. We will clean our house, over and over again. We will watch tv, surf the Internet, scroll up and down Facebook until the cows come home, literally. We will eat badly, drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, and repeat, just to allay our fears.

We will engage in all sorts of self-destructive behaviours just to avoid feelings of uncertainty, especially the feeling of doing something that is hard or challenging. What we don’t realise, is the more we avoid these challenges, the greater our fears become. The greater our fears become, the more we create ourselves a prison. This prison brings certainty, but certainty is a prison.

When we know what is going to happen, we may be safe, but through trying to keep safe, we create ourselves a fortress that we feel is inescapable. We, by not doing things that help us grow, become our own cruel jailer, as Dorothy Rowe, a renowned clinical psychologist lucidly writes.

Certainty is a prison.

Yes, by avoiding challenges, we will save ourselves from future trials, heartache, etc., but we will never realise what we are capable of. We won’t even realise one of life’s greatest truths, we have the ability to learn.

All we need to do is learn the knowledge and skills of whatever it is we want to achieve, and over time, we will achieve what we put our minds to. As cliché as that sounds, it is a truth, as most clichés often are.

When we realise that it is effort and application over the long term that will help us overcome our fears, we will become powerful, a force to be reckoned with. A force far greater than any dragon.

A person who realises that they need to gain knowledge and skills, who has a growth mindset, is like a freight train. Watch out! Nothing can stop them because they know that with time and effort, they will reach their goals, and yes, there will be difficulties along the way. But with those difficulties, they gain strength. They say, “I survived. And, if I survived that, maybe I can even do this or even … do that?”

In my next post I will look at how our early, negative learning experiences also prevent us from moving towards our goals.

If you liked this post on the first barrier to learning – Fear of Failure, see my other posts in a 6-part series on the Barriers to Learning.

Annelise Mitchell
Annelise Mitchell


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