How to Shrink Your Fears Down to Size
Facing your fears frees you to succeed in life.
Posted Sep 22, 2017
In my last blog, I referenced the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Viorst, 1999) as a lesson in recognizing the impermanence of emotions and “bad days.” While using this book to connect with such an important message, I remembered a second children’s story I’ve used with patients, Harry and the Terrible Whatzit (Gackenbach, 1977).
This is a touching story about a boy, Harry, who goes in search of his mother after she disappears into the cellar. Armed with only a broom, he sneaks down the steps and faces the very scary “double-headed, three-clawed, six-toed, long-horned Whatzit.” Determined to make the creature reveal what it had done to his mother, he challenges it, shouts at it, and swats it with his broom. Though the creature at first goes after him in anger, it eventually shrinks as it cowers in fear. Finally, Harry prevails when it disappears.
This simple, charming story has a powerful message. By being strong enough to face your fears, you can shrink them down to size. They can become a small scared voice that you can easily walk past—or they can even totally disappear.
So, when confronted with a fear, take a page from Harry’s book and face your fear:
- When you feel scared, take a slow, deep breath and remind yourself that you have nothing to fear.
- Or, challenge the intensity of your fear by asking yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
- And if there is a possible bad consequence, affirm that you are committed to your current action anyway. Affirm that you will be better off for having taken on this risk.
- Finally, step up to do that feared thing.
Rather than viewing your fear as a sign of weakness, allow yourself to understand the fear (even have compassion for it), and then consider the courage you have in taking action anyway. When you hold strong to your courage, your fears will likely shrink—but whether or not they do, you can still summon an inner strength to move forward… and to succeed in your endeavor, as well as in life.
If you find this article helpful, you might also be interested in this related brief video:
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board.
If you would like email notification of new blog postings by Dr. Becker-Phelps, click here.
Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation, and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate awareness