How to change your reactions to fear.
The following story comes from chapter seven of my book Bully Proofing You.
Think about where the fear comes from. It comes from the fear of possible future pain. When you have a fear-based reaction, you enter what is referred to as the freeze, fight, or flight sympathetic nervous system response. You have no control over the physiological reaction; however, you do have control over your response to the cause. Let me explain by telling you a story.
When I was a young girl growing up on our farm in Washington state, my brother and I had to fill the inside wood box. It wasn’t a difficult task, but it was always nice to have two people performing this particular chore. One of us would get the wood from the woodpile outside, while the other stood at the back door, waiting to bring it the rest of the way into the house. This way we didn’t have to take our shoes off to come in, and the task was completed more efficiently. My brother was always a gentleman and let me remain inside because I don’t like the cold. He also enjoyed making me jump.
We entered the back door of our house through the garage. There was a bathroom door as we stepped into the mud room—it was Washington, after all, and we did live on a farm. Sometimes he liked to step into the bathroom after he handed me the wood. I would drop the wood off in the box and return for more. He would step out of the bathroom door and say, “Boo!” He liked my reaction. Once I jumped so high that I landed on my back and hit my head. He stopped after that. He didn’t want to hurt me. He just liked to hear me scream and see my hair stand on end and my eyes get as big a dinner plates. It was all in fun and it kept my nervous system in top shape.
Flash forward about six years to 1986. I was at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in army basic training. I was walking down the hall in our barracks when Drill Sergeant Young stepped into the doorway. You guessed it: I reacted the way I had been trained. My hair shot up, my eyes got big, and I screamed…to which he replied, “This will never do, Private.”
He spent the next six weeks training me to a new reaction pattern. That was fun. No, really, it was. I could hardly wait to get home and fill the wood box with Robbie.
Flash forward another seven years to 1993 and my teaching job. I was still a new teacher, having only been teaching for two years. I had just started my career at Summit High School. I was in my classroom, grading papers. It was quiet and I thought everyone had gone home. I got up from my desk to go to the restroom. I opened my door and a student was standing there. Once again, I reacted. As I looked at the student lying on the floor, I knew my teaching career was over. I went directly to our counselor at the time and told him what I had done. We returned to my classroom to find the student sitting in a desk. I asked him if he was all right and apologized. The counselor asked him if he wanted to press charges.
“No way, man, it will ruin my rep.” There are so many benefits to working with gang members; I just never knew this would be one. Can you imagine the backlash he would have received? “You got beat up by your teacher? A female teacher?” We never spoke of the incident again.
My career went forward, and he was a well-behaved student. When other students got mouthy, he would step up and say, “You need to sit down and leave her alone.” He was my protector for many years. Students talked about how I was his favorite teacher and you better not mess with me or you had to answer to him. He was one of my favorites too.
I have since changed my reaction once again. However, I still recommend making noise as you approach. It might make the meeting better for both of us.
Thanks for reading.
Have a tremendous day,