I had a friend in Edinburgh many years ago and we used to talk about our anxieties of which there were many. We called them General Fears and imagined a character, a military man who was in charge of all frightening experiences and who doled them out as necessary for character building.
Fear – where does it come from? Why is one person more prone to it that another?
When fear has been a major part of your life you have various options.
-You can live with it and adjust your life accordingly ‘no I never go there/do that/speak to those people’ etc etc. You put safety first. Life may be narrower and less exciting but it feels more secure.
-You can challenge your fears and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. This works and in theory fear should get weaker and you become more confident. Over years this can sometimes be exhausting as in my experience General Fears does not accept defeat so easily.
– So usually we do a mixture of both the above, depending on how important it is and how strong we are feeling
Two days ago I planned to drive to the coast, taking in a little village called Saus on the way. I am not very confident driving here but it is much better than around Granollers so I wasn’t having to struggle too hard with fear. I set off early and got slightly lost, ending up on a very narrow road. A large van was coming in the opposite direction and although I pulled right into the right side, he knocked me as he went past very fast. It took a couple of moments before I realised the wing mirror was smashed and unusable.
Aha – an opening for General Fears to come in!
I drove to the village of Saus, thinking of having a coffee and a chance to think. But the streets were narrow, my van felt huge and hard to manoevre without the side mirror. I faffed around for a while indecisively then drove on to Escala. So far driving wasn’t too bad but I was on automatic pilot.
Breakfast in a beautiful seaside town. Thank goodness speaking Catalan is no longer a problem. I asked for a VW garage and was told the nearest was in Figueres.
At this point fear threatened to take over. I felt totally alone in a foreign county.
Alone alone all all alone. Alone on a wide wide sea.
‘Why did I come here?’ ‘Why am I not back in Cornwall where I would know what to do?’
But something had to be done and so I drove back to Figueres. I already had been there twice and not enjoyed the drive. Going back without my side mirror made it extra interesting.
But what amazed me was that while I had battled my fear and won, it still continued to fight back. I was driving on a busy road, with a lot of faster traffic. My body went into panic mode while my mind looked on in amazement. I was sweating, waves of fear swept up from my feet to my head, I felt sick and dizzy, I would have stopped and waited till it passed except that there were no places to stop.
-Is this fear something from childhood?
-Is it something from our ancestral past that once was useful for survival but now is unnecessary? -Why do some people not have this level of fear? They are the ones who look at you with disbelief or say things like ‘pull yourself together’ How come they were so lucky – is it genes?
Anyway, I did manage to find the garage. I was able to ask directions in Figueres (thank you Catalan lessons) and when I arrived they did the repair immediately which cost 50 euros. In 20 minutes I was out again with a new mirror and I set off again for the coast, refusing to allow myself to go ‘home’ rather than face those roads another time.