- Martha Engeman
Berklee and the Snowman: Facing Fear
During the recent snowstorm, several people in our neighborhood made snowmen in their yards and decorated them with hats, faces and scarves. Now I think snowmen are relatively benign—more Frosty the Snowman and less the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—so I was out admiring them on a recent walk with my grand dog, Berklee. Berklee is a strong, fast dog who will pull me down to chase a squirrel. But when she saw the snowmen, she stopped, sat up alert staring at them, and refused to budge. She was scared of these big things that she had never seen before. She finally walked around the first snowman, with lots of coaxing and pulling. When we got to the next one, I decided that Berklee needed to go up to the snowman and smell it so she wouldn’t be scared. Well she wanted no part of that. She sat, pulled back and whined. I finally got her close enough so she could smell, a little bit. But she was still wary.
As we continued our walk, we passed a few more snowmen and she got very alert each time, but gradually, she kept moving past them. I like to think that she realized that she didn’t have to be afraid of the snowmen, but I really don’t know if that is the case.
My adventure with Berklee got me thinking about fear. There are two kinds of fear in my mind: 1) the fear that you need to keep you alive, so you can escape dangerous situations; and 2) the fear that we create in our minds. I am all for healthy fear that keeps us alive and well. It’s the other fear—the one that is in our minds—that can be paralyzing. Someone once said to me that fear is false expectations appearing real. It is our anticipation of a result that may or may not come to pass. It is the ego’s way of keeping us safe and secure in the world. The problem is that fear wants to keep us in a box and prevent us from taking the risks that we need to grow.
One way to work with our own fears is to lighten up a bit about them. So the next time that I feel fear, I am going to visualize snowmen. That’s right, the very snowmen that Berklee was scared of. I will see those snowmen in various stages of melting, with their carrot noses and jaunty scarves, and I will remember all the fun I had as a child making snowmen. I will use that image to turn my fear into fun.
Will you join me in this experiment? What will you visualize the next time that you feel fear? I would really welcome your thoughts and ideas.