CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: From where do our childhood fears come?
By AMY NEWKIRK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 11/1/2013
Children can be an incredible package of contradictions. You would think that my son would be a fearless crusader. He travels and does research in challenging Third World countries, he fearlessly skis “off piste” in the Alps, and he swims a mile in open water during triathlons, among other activities that impress his adoring mother.
But Mike is actually a scaredy-cat. He won’t jump off a tire swing into a lake, he’s afraid of horror films and he drives slowly and carefully, sticking to the speed limit. As his mom, this makes me happy, but this caution did interfere with Mike’s activities as a child.
Mike was afraid of everything: bugs, steam, even tree sap. So when his nursery school visited a haunted house, he sat outside while the other preschoolers giggled their way through the Halloween display.
When I heard that Mike had not participated, I decided that it was time to address some of his fears. As the famous scientist Marie Curie said: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” It was time to get Mike some understanding.
Mike reluctantly agreed to go back to the haunted house with me. I told him that the ghosts and witches were nothing more than automated dolls. The scary sounds were coming from a stereo system like the one in our house. But he still resisted. That’s when it occurred to me: Why not deconstruct the haunted house?
I asked the haunted house operator if he would turn on the lights and turn off the music and the animated figures, since we were the only people there. Then we walked through, Mike clinging to my hand. I lifted the white sheets off the ghosts and showed Mike that underneath they were plastic elves, the same ones he had seen the previous Christmas. After we’d been through one time, we went again, this time with the lights off. Next, we tried it with the lights off and the music on. Then we walked through again with the whole shebang: lights off, moans and scary music playing through the speakers, motorized figures moving. Finally, Mike asked to go through by himself, without me at his side. He came out beaming and then ran back in alone, triumphant. Our step-by-step approach had worked!
Of course, nothing moves on a straight path. A few days later, on Halloween, my newly emboldened 4-year-old freaked out again, when our 5-year-old neighbor came to our front door dressed as Spider-Man. Oh well, a little bit at a time, right? And after all, I was the college student who walked out of “Jaws” during the opening credits because I was afraid it would be too scary.
Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com