Do you remember that scene from the Wizard of Oz with the flying monkeys? I can’t remember all the details but I do remember the absolute terror they created within me. I still can’t watch that movie as an adult for the same reason. If I was to put an image with my feelings of fear about something, I’d have to say those flying monkeys epitomise what it looks like. Fear is an ever-present resident in my psyche and can serve as a both a catalyst for positive change and an epic destructor of what could be possible in my life. I am as familiar as anyone with its capacity to help create and decimate.
The adrenalin of facing fear and ‘doing it anyway’ has helped me take massive steps forward in my life. Standing in front of my first-ever class of university students four years ago, I was overflowing with fear.
‘What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m a terrible tutor? I just want to get this right!!!’ My internal voice of fear screamed hysterically.
But I was determined to face the fear and ‘do it anyway’. Nowadays, when asked about my teaching, I say it is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing parts of my life where I get to help people on their path. Imagine if I’d let my fear vanquish my desire to teach? I would never have met all the amazing students I’ve had the honour to work with.
I haven’t always been quite so successful at facing down the flying monkeys. Recently, I found myself in a situation that pushed all my boundaries and insecurities, and fear had a field day. It was like the closet door swung open so violently it almost ripped off the hinges and a horde of flying monkeys poured forth and kept coming until the sky was darkened and the light was almost gone. All those fears I thought I’d dealt with or buried came out to play their vicious games in my present.
It was awful and, as I felt myself in the grip of those monkeys’ claws, my behaviour deteriorated. I was not my best self in the situation and afterwards I felt so very ashamed because I hurt not only me but also someone I cared about.
Mortified and yes, shocked at myself, I slunk away to lick my wounds and regroup.
As I reflected on the situation and sought the counsel of some wise friends over the following days, I came to some realisations about what had happened and the role of fear in my life in general.
Firstly, and quite obviously, fear had taken over my mind that day and I needed to take a good look at all the emotions and memories it had flung into the present. Then I needed to make peace with them and let them go. I needed to acknowledge that while they had taught me a lot, they had no place in present day or in the current situation.
Secondly, I needed to recognise that while the other person’s behaviour had upset me, it wasn’t their fault they had triggered my fears. My response to the situation was my responsibility and, if I’d responded in another way, things might have been resolved a lot more easily and calmly. That’s the ‘downside’ of self-development because invariably and inevitably you have to take ownership of your own role in life rather than place the blame at the feet of someone else.
Thirdly, I owed the person involved a huge and unequivocal apology (which I communicated as soon as possible).
And finally, I understood something fundamental about fear itself. You see, we all have fears and sometimes situations and the behaviours of others are going to trigger those fears in a big way because at those moments you’re being pushed to take a great leap forward in understanding yourself. And you’re also being asked to recognise and release the fears that have been holding you back from where you could be. That place you ‘could be’ is your present where amazing things are right in front of you if only you choose to claim them. But in doing so you must leave the fears of the past behind; you cannot take them with you. It’s by recognising your fears then choosing to let them go that you can create something magical. If you let them take over, you are simply allowing them to decimate what is possible.
Above all, as one wise friend put it, the most important thing to remember when fear rises is, ‘They’re just flying monkeys’.