Rx: Face Your Fears

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Today's post is of a more personal nature based on an observation and a discussion that ensued between my husband and I concerning, what else, comfort zones.

This summer has been a momentous one for my youngest son.

He is in the waning months of his seventh year... traditionally an age which marks a transitional phase from 'toddlerhood' to full-on boy-ness. This child spent many hours on many days communing with mama ocean, meeting his fears of immersion (and seaweed and jellyfish) head-on until it nearly became a matter of concern for his dad and me.

As the summer drew to a close, our boy took off on a two-wheeler. The grin on his face was classic. I took him to a local riding trail yesterday, where he could let loose as I walked behind. He chattered on happily, largely unconscious of the fact that I could hardly hear him, yards ahead of me. We found a small clearing leading to the creek bank, where he discovered a stick and entertained himself with it for about 20 minutes. As I watched him, I found myself thinking that I've never seen such a joyful kid. 

This was the basis of my observation.

Not just that he was happy. But enthusiastic. Really, really curious. Optimistic. Self-confident. There were always glints of these qualities, but they were often hidden under layers of angst and frustration. Rarely could 20 minutes pass without some unknown trigger setting him off, causing him to run into a room behind a slammed door. Just in the last month, his tantrums have reduced to practically nil. He accepts negative responses to his requests, when they should occur,  with a wistful "ah well", but accepts them nonetheless.

My husband is a novice surfer, and coming from a few barrier-breaking experiences himself-- some he was even reluctant to share with me - reflected on this with his theories that our brains need confrontations with limits. So much of our personal angst, 'boredom', discomfort, and irritability could be dispelled by taking on scary situations.

The beauty of surfing, especially for my chronically-stressed business-owner husband, is that it requires such single-minded focus. To think about anything else other than keeping yourself on the board is to get creamed.

So, maybe it's more than just the confidence of gaining mastery over a new task, but the new-ness itself...the respite from gear-grinding the brain gets as it has to set itself on integrating new information. And if it invites the body into learning new dance steps, so much the better. 

I've known this. I've seen and experienced it.

And I'm sharing it because I suspect the environment of manufactured fear under which we live paralyzes most of us, and confuses our perception of what truly should be matters of concern. I also believe that fears not faced adversely affect our health and our overall sense of comfort within our our skin. I am sure that studies in neuroscience would bear this out, as well as disciplines such as mindfulness meditation, which invite us to continually challenge our own stories. It's been proven that short periods of heightened stress (as opposed to the prolonged low-level kind) strengthen our immune systems, and a continual gauge of our boundaries, both physical and psychological, finely hones our awareness of where we exist in time and space.

Have your own experiences or thoughts to share? Please do!

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