My Journey Through Causes, Triggers and Symptoms of FEAR
Now some of us like to confront FEAR and try to win…only to find new FEARs to conquer. But for most people, FEAR takes over their lives. It can even keep people from true happiness both personally and professionally. And often, FEAR "makes" people do crazy things…from causing pain and suffering to others, to ruining lives within communities. In my opinion, FEAR is THE most harmful and unhealthy emotion and it is the one that causes the most damage in any society.
And we say "goodbye" to FEAR all together!
(SPOILER-The FEARful part is the process)
Last week, I was able to overcome a huge FEAR and I lived to tell about it! It felt incredible and it got me thinking. I realized that through the stress, the nerves, the FEAR based emotions, I could have avoided the situation entirely…in one of two ways:
- Don’t try and keep my important information locked away for only me to know
- Criticize the brave people who speak up and simultaneously blame the world for wronging me and “making me” afraid to speak in front of teachers, even scapegoat my own parents for raising me at a disadvantage because they did not know better
FEAR and Distress Response Illness:
But then I realized that if I am going to lead a FEAR-eliminating school, and talk about how we cannot shield our children from FEARful people, I had better live my values and model how easy it can be to overcome my own FEARs! I know that to prepare our children for the 21st century, where modern-day child-rearing means that FEARful people will become the norm (thanks to social media, tablets, promoting the mediocre over merit and overprotection/underprotection of children). Kids need to learn SKILLS to overcome FEARs along the way so that they don't become adults who...
Life is about modelling and I can really only control myself, right? I am a self-leader so I have to show children that they can do anything that they put their mind to if they have GRIT and believe in themselves. It is also my duty as a leader of an American school to help ease parents worries during these FEARful times.
So…once again…I am MY OWN Guinea Pig (best for your children, I guess)!
What Causes FEAR?
Causes of FEAR can vary but nature and nurture are involved. Our bodies have natural risk instincts that activate FEAR as a means of protection (fight or flight). FEAR actually keeps us safe and it motivates us when it is not busy trying to take over our lives.
And when even the Cable Girls are talking about FEAR, I know that my mission to ELIMINATE FEAR has a bigger purpose!
FEARs mainly come from:
- Education (nurture)
We are conditioned to be afraid of the things and many of our FEARs DO come from traumatic experiences in previous generations:
This article by Sherri Hurd gives us a few hidden explanations for fears and the meaning behind them:
The cause of my biggest FEAR: School
Background information to Create Context:
I was “THAT KID”…the one who learned differently. I am deathly afraid of teachers thanks to educational trauma!
I was born curious (like all children) and I wanted SO BADLY to please…but my need for kinesthetic learning (and probably a bit of poor discipline), made sure that I drove teachers all NUTS!
You see, back in those days of 20th century and post-war hierarchies, teachers would ridicule us if we stepped out of line (“What happened, did your brain get baked in Hawaii?”). In the Industrial Revolution Educational System, we were expected to memorize, regurgitate and follow orders, no questions asked. The last thing you could be is different and learning differently was a recipe for disaster.
You can guess how that went for LITTLE MISS CURIOUS! Constant frustration, lots detentions, lots of chalk marks on my clothes, lots of missed recesses and school wide events…but worst of all…
LOTS OF NEGATIVE FEELINGS about ME:
I was “not good enough”
I can literally, 30+ years later, quote every negative thing a teacher said to me or about me to break my spirit and “put me in line”. In fact, the first teacher who I can remember “liking me” was my Math teacher Mr. Salas when I was 14. And the only other professor I can remember having a positive relationship with was my Child Development professor in college! Can you imagine?!?
But I found strength and motivation from the word “NO” (the positive of hierarchies is that they are naturally meant to be challenged so repression leads to GRIT).
Thanks to my athletic ability, I stuck with school and I finally got into my groove in college when I realized that teaching was my calling. I love gratitude…thank goodness my sports coached were there to build my confidence. Mr Bettencourt, my coach was my softball coach for most of my childhood and he was the most influential “teacher” in my life. He was the only one in school who motivated me and told me I had talent.
FEAR Triggers. What?!?
Loss of control is a big FEAR trigger and that always happens when we are trying new things because they take us outside of our comfort zone.
That's why the scariest FEAR “trigger” of all is parenting because when you become a parent, everyday is new and you are responsible for another life FOREVER! WE are simply not rational when it comes to our own kids and our FEARs about keeping them safe and happy (so experts "teachers" who studied kids were invented).
A "TRIGGER" is anything that “snaps” you into a negative reaction based on a past experience. It can be an incident, an event, a memory or something you are unaware of which takes you back to “that place” and time when you were afraid. You usually won’t realize that it is happening…until it is too late!
Dr. Gail Christopher tells us how her daughter opened her heart to this FEARful man who wanted help:
And FEAR lost eventually but as Gary grew, his inner circle and priorities shifted:
FEAR “triggers” my UGLY! I lose my marbles and I turn into a monster. I am not sure what happened in my early childhood (or in a previous life) but it definitely caused damage and leads me to extreme measures to protect myself or others!
My Irrational FEAR Triggers Come Out in Education
Trying my best at school and never being accepted by my teachers…
The rejection led to my irrational FEAR of teachers in general! But considering my past experiences in school and considering that teachers are supposed to be the ones, by law, who build us up, it is of normal that I am still scared to death of those people!
You mean that FEAR and overcompensation are the whole reason I got into education and why I started English for Fun?
This is also why I take it so personally when teachers speak negatively about my work?
This is why when a teacher questions my integrity, I go back to THAT PLACE of FEAR and loneliness at school?
Poor teachers dealing with the flip side of my baggage...I mean it’s great for kids but not always great for adults who are HUMAN and often forget/don’t know that my inner child is always there, policing the situation!
SO You mean I did all this English for Fun/teaching business to make sure that no child suffered that sense of sadness and FEAR of abandonment in their “safe space”? I wonder how many people got into education with the same hidden agenda? This means that it is SUPER important for schools and parents and teachers to reflect on the roles we need schools to play in society!
PARENTS…do you see how important your choice of education is for your child? Scars can last a lifetime.
This is why…inside of our educational spaces, if you lose respect for children, you deal with my FEAR-driven ugly! It naturally comes out from my insides as a form of protecting kids (me)... Maybe other teachers/administrators/parents have the same trigger?
TEACHERS…do you see how important it is that ALL children feel RESPECTED when they walk in the doors of our schools? The role of "safety" at school has to overcompensate for a lack of feeling respected elsewhere.
This is why teachers naturally highlight our areas for growth, and even in adulthood. We all have a repressed child longing for a teachers approval! So parents are hypersensitive to teacher criticism if they grew up in industrial revolution education. Maybe they have a FEAR of judgement by teachers, especially about parenting, so it puts parents on the defensive?
This is where the BRAIN IS BUILT. Children are being shaped for adulthood at birth. They need safe and respectful spaces from 0-6 because TRAUMA CAN LAST A LIFETIME!
Symptoms of FEAR…
So what symptoms do we experience when we are afraid:
- hot flashes or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- a choking sensation
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- pain or tightness in the chest
- a sensation of butterflies in the stomach
- Crying and sadness
- Worry and anxiety
AM I A MARTYR OR AM I NUTS???
Most people who suffered trauma in school do the safe thing…avoid it! I was put on this earth to model overcoming FEARs through education!
WHEN I opened those inspirational schools…
I never bet on the fact that I would have to one day find a way to overcome my FEARs and motivate/lead those very educators who were descendents of the cruel and FEARful ones in previous generations!
About 9.5 years into English for Fun (and 13 years teaching beforehand) and doing my VERY best work but hiding behind our democratic school mentality and our community values, I realized that THIS WAS AN ISSUE and our community wanted ME to inspire them and lead this organization. But I was paralyzed…and FEAR was my biggest problem!
SO…here goes nothing…Bye-Bye FEAR of Teachers and School...well sort of...
I was preparing a presentation for our families, similar to one I have done many times before…but this time talking about FEARs left me exposed.
Knowing what our team needs from me, I decided to rip off the bandaid and practice the presentation in front of our teachers.
And, of course I did what FEARful people often do...
I created some serious drama to avoid this…You see, FEARs friends are all sneaky and toxic little brats!
I sabotaged the power point twice…then created a newer, prettier (but totally different) presentation the day before I stood up in front of our teachers...
I wrote two letters to parents beforehand...
I developed a whole series of facts for the blog on FEAR of Failure (to obviously get into my own head)...
I did not practice to have an excuse not to do my best work! Went up cold and unrehearsed...
Sound familiar? Procrastination is a toxic friend of FEAR!! BARBARA OAKLEY talks Procrastination with Corsera.
Once again, I screamed and cried in front of a trusted employee who knows my FEARs and I created drama before I stepped up in front of the classroom filled with our teachers (baby steps, there were only 5 of them and they are the KINDEST, MOST POSITIVE, MOST PROFESSIONAL people who have never ever second-guessed my abilities once or gave me a reason to raise my affective-filter but they were paying for my past trauma...CLEHES (EGO in CLEHES is there to "protect" us).
Well of course this happened…
- The presentation started late (patient group)
- It was a boring "workshop" because I did not have time to finish the charts and props (so someone probably napped with eyes open)
- I had a meltdown onstage (tears and grandstanding my professional background as though I was on trial and I was my own character witness against the teachers who doubt me-none of which were in the room as they are all now retired)
- It took too long (and not one of those caring people left the room to get on the bus after a full work day with babies)
BUT THEN THIS HAPPENED…
- I got through it…and even though it was not my best work, I FELT better for facing my FEAR! A huge weight was lifted. I realized that the problem was completely in my HEAD and it had nothing to do with teachers! And I realized that I actually know my stuff-I'm not the fraud my gaslighting FEARful inner voice was telling me I was.
- The TEAM was proud of my efforts (the joke at EFF is my FEAR of teachers because I believe that saying things out loud until I am systematically desensitized to helps get rid of it)
- And the feedback was wonderful (The most insightful piece-the unnecessary self-justification that took up the first 30 minutes)
- We bonded over trauma so there are no secrets (Team Building 101)
And most importantly:
- Sharing this “trauma” with our community of teachers made everyone feel closer and it helped our team empathize with my struggles (they never knew how badly I hurt)
- Our team saw, first hand, how damaged an adult can be based on an educational system that did not meet the needs of all students
- We reflected on how teachers, with a lack of skill-sets to deal with children with different learning styles, can leave a negative impact on children and they understand how FEAR-based trauma can continue to come with us well into adulthood
- We all realized how truly important it is to give children a respectful space and the tools to deal with adversity
Our community knows that we are a part of something bigger and that together we are unstoppable if we help children eliminate FEARs before they begin!
BTW…The following day I OWNED that training session when we took it to our parents!
It was inspirational, exciting, empowering and FUN…
So FUN that we are doing it again...
Surprisingly enough…I think our teachers liked it even more than the moms and dads! Through me, they were able to see how important their work is. Most people who suffered at the hands of a failed system and only go back when they have to as parents, which is probably why some parents have a serious distrust for schools. I think watching me work through my FEARs inspires them to continue working with kids because we truly are the ones who can make or break a child. They see my journey and certainly don’t want to inflict that kind of trauma on a child and then have a former student get on a stage and talk about school suffering 35 years later!
We get into this role as parents or as professionals to build strong adults. The life lessons of my experiences can be a helpful reminder for us all.
This is my WHY. I was put on this earth to help children and families take down FEAR! So beware FEARful people…Game on!!