Trick or treat – what scares you?

It’s that time of year for things that go bump in the night… and it’s not just your other half coming home late from the pub.

Based on pagan festivals to honour the dead, Halloween is believed to have originated in Celtic Ireland in the first century; many traditions such as pumpkin carving originated here where turnips were originally hollowed out and lit to ward off evil spirits. These days, we pay good money to indulge our “harmless” fears and scare ourselves witless at a creepy movie… you know the scene where the hero creeps through a dark deserted house, with thunder and lightning pounding at the windows, shuddering at creaking doors…. why do they never switch the lights on anyway? These fears we can deal with – we sign up for them. But what about our other fears, the ones that we don’t really think about at Halloween or any other time of the year, because we spend our time hiding under the duvet from them?

Our fears of ghosts and things that we find difficult to explain are very real to those who experience them. Some fears don’t necessarily impact us in any major way… perhaps fear of spiders, heights, lightning, the dark… we can find ways to avoid them or at least to cope. Our fears provoke a kind of primal fight or flight response which evolved to keep us safe, but can often hold us back from doing things that help us to develop. Other fears can limit us or what we believe we can achieve; terror of failure or dread of success, fear of speaking in public, fear of being lonely, of being wrong, of not having all the answers… and that’s just my list!

Sometimes we have difficulty telling whether what we are feeling is true fear, or just excitement or anticipation or a combination of these things.

Often, our fear is all in the anticipation of something and we avoid it like vampires avoid daylight. We don’t want to experience fear because it’s uncomfortable, but we may just be afraid of the feelings of fear, the feeling of being out of control, or not being able to cope, of being perceived as weak, rather than the actual “monster”.

I recently worked with a client who wanted to make significant changes in life and career; he described the fear of the future as being like clouds in the sky when a plane comes in to land; it makes the landing bumpy and you may feel scared, but you know that you’re not going to turn around, you will get through them because the clouds don’t have much substance.

So here are some questions to help you work on your fears…

  • Write down the things that you are truly scared of – you don’t have to show it to anyone
  • What is your response to each of these things – how do you feel and what do you experience – what do these feelings tell you?
  • What is it that you would prefer not to know?
  • If I had the courage, I would…. And….. and….
  • What will you do that pushes you out of your comfort zone and when?

As Roosevelt said in his inaugural address as US President “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”… perhaps he hated public speaking too!

The trick is that staying limited by our fears can turn us into hollow eyed zombies, living just half a life… the treat is recognising that when if we face up to them and tackle them, that we may find the the silver bullet that we’re looking for.

2 thoughts on “Trick or treat – what scares you?

  1. Sad, sad, sad as Wolfe Tone pnce said. Haloween should be the tome to roll out true tales of truly spooky stuff – not this dry common sense fear of dark stuff. (i.e. common non-sense). Take castle Frankenstein which is a stone’s throw from my house. Two ghost hunters heard ghostly laughing in a tower there.

    1. Thanks Hugh for reading and taking the time to comment. Most posts on this blog are based on common themes that I observe with clients I work with on a daily basis who want to make change in their working life – fear is a common one that holds people back from what they want – whether its fear of failure which can stop people from trying new things, or fear of what other people will think of them. Most people don’t take time to consider how things like fear may limit them, so I usually put in some questions or exercises people can do for themselves and observe things they may be avoiding, and why – Halloween seems like a good time to look at all sorts of fears, rational & otherwise, but not everyone feels the fear! I’m just thinking, this could be the start of a series of posts with themes to tie in with other seasonal & cultural events; Harvest and Thanksgiving… observing how practicing gratitude ties in with happiness; Winter might be about conserving energy and building our inner reserves; Spring … perhaps this would be about recognising new aspects of ourselves and our own personal growth and development… some of these may be more to your liking! Thanks for the inspiration!

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