Guest Post: Mindset: How To Slay A Dragon Or How To Overcome Fear Through Exposure

Happy Sunday, I’m back! Okay well sorta, today I share with you all a beautiful post written by a fellow reader who reached out to me and shared part of her story with me and asked if it was okay to share with all of you. And of course, I was thrilled! Welcome Martina with warm hugs and I’ll see you all next week with a brand new recipe!

We all know fear. It is something that every human being has experienced and that affects even the most mentally stable person from time to time. As much as fear is a human universal it is also deeply personal. We all have different fears: While some people love to be in the limelight, others are terrified when they only think about public speaking. While an elevator is something very convenient for most of us, some people would not enter one even if it was a matter of life and death. The same goes for planes, spiders, speaking up for yourself, swimming in open waters and a whole bunch of other things. However, as bad as it might seem, fear also has the most potential for personal growth when met with exposure.

Jordan Peterson, a professor for psychology at the University of Toronto, compares overcoming fear with slaying dragons. This is a metaphor I couldn’t agree with more as it is just spot on. Fear is the monstrous dragon lurking in a dark cave. While the peasants of a village close to a dragon’s lair probably wouldn’t spend every second of their lives thinking about the dragon that could someday come and get them, it is still a constant threat and a source of terror. The peasants now have the choice between living in fear of the dragon that might someday come and destroy the whole village or going out voluntarily and slaying the dragon to live in peace thereafter.
It is exactly the same as our fears. We can either be a slave to them or conquer them. Yes, it is true that the world is full of dangers and we have every reason to be scared, but it is also true that we are a lot stronger than we think. The right way to overcome fear is not to make the world safer but to make the person stronger.

Of course, you cannot push a person with a fear of public speaking right onto a stage and expect them to deliver a passionate speech or expect someone with fear of heights to enjoy a visit to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The key is gradual exposure. If you want to overcome a fear, you first need to break it down into chunks that are digestible. Spend as much time as you need on every step until it becomes boring and then move to the next step until you are at your goal.

Let’s say you have a fear of using elevators. A good way to overcome this is to grab a friend and have them support you while you first just stand in front of an elevator. Once that becomes too boring, you can try to open the door and put one foot inside while your friend is making sure the door won’t close suddenly. Next, fully step into the elevator and step right out. Gradually increase the exposure until someday you will be able to take an elevator on your own without having a nervous breakdown.

My biggest fear was driving – and still is to some degree- but I have decided that I have to be able to drive or else I might someday get into an emergency situation in which I would have to drive but would not be able to do so. The background is that I had not driven a car for many years as there was really no need for me to drive as a student living in a big city with good public transportation, a bike and a boyfriend that loves to drive. So, in order to overcome my fear, we started very slow: First I just sat down in the driver’s seat, started the car and drove 5 meters on a very rarely used road in the middle of nowhere. This might sound very unexciting to most people, but it was enough to get my heartbeat way up.

After this short trip I felt shaky but incredible. I was starting to fight the dragon! In the following weeks, we gradually increased the distance and also started to drive in normal traffic. First in our village, later during rush hour in Stuttgart, a city notorious for bad traffic! Last Christmas I even drove almost 1000 km within 2 days to visit my parents with my boyfriend on the passenger’s seat. While I am still terrified by the thought of driving that distance alone, I have no problem at all to drive in normal traffic on routes that I know.

So this is already a big victory and a slayed dragon. It really does feel amazing when I drive around and think about how terrified I was by even the thought of driving not too long ago. This feeling is really priceless and gives me the strength to fight the remaining battles.
It is, by the way, a lot easier to kill dragons while they are still small! If you wait until they are full-blown fire-spitting monsters, you will have a much tougher battle!

Andrea Broom

Hi! I'm Andrea. A girl who loves her chocolate as much as her greens.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.