I have a completely ludicrous fear of bears. I can trace this, quite specifically, to my sixth grade science teacher. He was a good teacher for sixth grade- his classes received rapt attention, because he did lectures on the interesting stuff. We probably spent a week on bears, and how to survive bear attacks, and then moved on the sharks and snakes.
He also did comprehensive sections on nuclear fusion and perpetual motion machines.
So, this fear of bears is what I’d call an amusing fear. It doesn’t really affect my life. We aren’t that into camping, but it’s not because of all the bears. We have our “bear plan”- if we’re caught in the woods near a bear, our plan is to look bigger- create a larger body by sticking close together, and, if we’re lucky enough to have the crash pads with us, using them as giant body armor.
(Unlike most people, I have actually seen a bear: on the road up to the top of Mt. Washington. But I was in a car. )
So bears = Irrational, traceable fear. Manageable.
There’s also that other, more insidious type of fear, which keeps you up at night or makes you avoid people. Fear of self, fear of life-circumstances, fear of something-or-other that is too uncomfortable to name. People deal with this in different ways, rarely directly or by naming it. Some procrastinate, others self-medicate.
Let’s call this a Major Fear.
Major fears have the unfortunate ability to generate physical flight-or-fight adrenaline responses, despite posing zero physical risk.
My self-talk about these Major Fear thought patterns flits around, between “think positively and focus on the good stuff” to “discomfort is inevitable, we have no control.” (Intellectually I believe in the former, but sometimes I think our culture believes in the latter.)
There are specific thought behaviors I tend towards when caught up in a fear pattern, and superstition is one of them, highly linked to the “focus on the good” mantra. And this superstition has a basis in reality: think about the most successful people you’ve ever known or met- be they successful in creative projects or entrepreneurial ones. One trait they likely all share is a strong self-confidence in their work. They may have deep flaws or uncertainties in their personal relationships or other aspects of their lives, but they exhibit unflagging self-assuredness about their work, and their personal best-suitedness to do that work.
Think about people who have trained themselves to behave rationally in dangerous situations, whether it be a war-zone or a rock-face. It’s a subtler than just “focus-on-the-good”. It’s focus-on-the-situation, without physically feeling an unmanageable fear response.
So, with the crash pad and its incredible closed-cell-foam-technology, we are learning to control our falls and maybe our fears.