A couple of months ago my 15-year-old daughter asked me how she can overcome some of her fears. The “I don’t like to be home alone at night or walk down a dark alley” type. At the time I was stumped. As a manly man if a buddy had asked that question the obvious answer would be “grow a set you pansy!” Followed by endless shaming until the guy admitted he wasn’t a wuss anymore. As a man I have been shamed out of fear my whole life.
A little birdie (years of therapy) in my hypothalamus sat up and urged me to take a different tack with my daughter. So I mumbled something about “you only get good at things you practice” and proceed onto google. Four months, much reading and many trials later I actually have found a few things that are appropriate for exactly the situation I have: a 15-year-old girl with normal age related anxiety in a few areas and a desire to get a little more gritty and tough.
We tried the first fear buster test at home tonight. Watch the video of my attempt below. Hat tip to Julien Smith in The Flinch for this technique that I have added onto.
Directions are simple. It takes less than two minutes. Get up right now and go to your cupboard. Pick out a little used but once loved coffee cup or glass. Hold it out in your hand at arm’s length, shoulder height. Now drop the cup! Yes you heard me drop the damn cup! Now clean it up. Sit down and write a list of every feeling that you felt before during and after dropping the cup. Use a feeling list like this if you have to. Naming feelings in detail reduces their power over you. You can just notice them like anything else. “oh, there is dread. And his friend fear. How interesting.” This exercise takes you through (slight) emotional distress, into analysis and onto (hopefully) some increased awareness and confidence all in less than 10 minutes with very little risk to life or limb.
It took my daughter a couple tries before she could drop the cup. The flinch made her arm go limp a few times before she pushed it aside. All the training to be careful and don’t break things. Yet there was her father giving her permission to break stuff and there would not be any consequences. The monkey mind couldn’t deal. Couldn’t reconcile the conflict. Multiple disaster scenarios raced through her head. Fear and dread took over. But with my encouragement she pushed through and found out that nothing bad happened. She stared down the flinch and won. One step at a time. Keep building and practicing and larger fears will lose their sway.
Like anything else the journey starts with the first step. If you want to get tougher try the cup drop challenge. All you have to lose is a little fear and a cup you don’t use anyway.