At the moment I am having a wonderful learning opportunity, because Lena and I are working on her fear when interacting with Pan. Objectively speaking, a lot of this fear might be labled "irrational", because she gets nervous as soon as Pan is beginning to wake up just a tad, so it's enough for him to lift his head and look in some direction in a somewhat curious way, and this triggers all sorts of horror scenarios in her mind of him breaking loose or running her over. But I prefer not to see fear as an irrational, harmful thing that you need to overcome.
Instead, I try to treat it more like a partner that I am interacting with. This means that when I feel my own fear, I am listening to it, speaking to it, and giving it its place. This takes away a lot of the "dark scary cloud that just comes and overwhelms me" character. For me, fear is a great thing, because it keeps me from doing stupid things and forces me to develop the right tools to deal with a situation. Sue has written a wonderful post about this here: Embracing your fear
. So simply ignoring it would not work for me. However, just like with any other interaction partner, I do appreciate its suggestions but I do not want to let it rule my life - I want to hear its suggestions, consider them and then decide which of them are helpful for me.
Practically speaking, that means that when I feel fear, I focus on it and analyze it as thoroughly as I can to find out where it is coming from and how it changes over time. Actually, this very process of cutting my fear into tiny pieces and looking at them already makes a lot of it go away. I think that only a minor proportion of this is due to the fact that I am understanding it better. This might play a role, but what is more important to me is that this process makes me an active participant, instead of someone who is just being overwhelmed by IT.
In terms of actions, there are situations where my fear tells me that I should not do something. Sometimes I obey, especially if it is a situation that I am usually not scared of but suddenly I am. For example, some weeks ago Nora and I went for a walk with the big boys, and I was feeling insecure. I didn't know where it was coming from, because the horses weren't doing anything that was obviously alarming and usually I am not scared on walks at all. So I trusted my instincts and did not do any wild things with them, like jumping over a ditch. We simply walked our way around it. And then close to the end of our walk, Summy's reactions to my body language got rather slow and Titum started cantering with Nora on the rope. Not far and she could hold him, but this told me that it was a good thing that I had listened to my fear, because apparently the horses were in a mood in which they could easily get excited and then stop attending to the human (as opposed to their usual getting excited and then turning to the human, instead of away from him). So thank you, dear fear, for having kept me from getting us into danger!
But there are other situations in which I am scared of something that I cannot or do not want to avoid. For example, when we were on a walk on which the ponies broke loose (you can read about it on one of the first pages of Bacardy's diary), I felt extremely scared, but I also knew that we did have to get home somehow, and that we did have to cross a big road for this. In these situations I tend to get calm and serious, telling myself that it's good to feel that fear and that I am giving myself the time to look at it for as long as I want, but that ultimately we WILL get through that situation. So the fear can stay or leave, just as it wishes, but I will do it anyway. I will do all I can to make it as safe as possible, but I will not refrain from doing it altogether. This puts me in some sort of action focus, and often it even removes the subjective feeling of fear, because it becomes irrelevant.
In the next post I will write a quick summary of our specific actions with Pan. Please share your experiences and strategies of working with fear as well!