I hate to ﬂy—I mean seriously, I hate it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, I hate it so much. I am your worst nightmare on a plane; bless you if you end up sitting next to me. I sweat, I hyperventilate, and if you’re game, I talk to you about anything.
I am happy to chat about your last colonoscopy if that’s all you got—whatever, bring it on, just don’t let me think about being in a metal tube, rocketing through the sky at thirty thousand feet. It all seems so unnatural and pushes up against my need for control and my fear of free falling from thirty thousand feet. Since I’m so eager to chat, I’ve met some really interesting people on planes and had some pretty interesting talks about fears.
I once met a young man, gosh was he a cutie, setting off to Iraq. As he boarded the plane, I could instantly tell he was a soldier. He was with a bunch of other soldiers, all dressed in street clothes, but clearly freshly shaved and ready for battle. This one must have drawn the short straw because he ended up sitting next to me. He sat down, and I didn’t even hesitate to launch into my sob story about my fear of ﬂying. I said outright, “Listen, I hate to ﬂy, so if you don’t mind, I’ll chat you up for an hour and half and be on my way.” He laughed and said, “Sure.”
Fear of Rejection Worse Than Fear of Death?
I grilled him about his life, what he did in the military, and why on earth he had joined in the ﬁrst place. This was all before takeoff. As the plane sped down the runway and the nose lifted into the air, I grabbed his hand, and you know what?—he held it back. If I weren’t on a small plane, I swear I might have married him on the spot.
He was a perfect gentleman with a slight southern drawl and about nineteen, which put him into the cute and too young category, but this didn’t stop me from having an hour-and- a-half-long love affair. He asked me what I did, and when I said I was a writer, he got this faraway look in his eye. He hesitated for a moment before he said, “I wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing poetry since I could spell, and I always wanted to write a novel.”
I am always amazed at the confessions we make to complete strangers, the freedom we feel to tell it like it is because the person we’re confessing to will never tell anyone and probably doesn’t care anyway. But I did. I asked him why he didn’t become a writer, and this nineteen-year-old, southern Adonis (seriously, he was hot) looked at me and said, “I was afraid I would fail and my family and friends would be disappointed in me.” So instead he joined the army and was heading into violence and physical danger and possible death, as if losing his life in a war was less frightening than being told his writing was bad.
We Are Protective of Our Fears
Fear is the grand bovine of sacred cows; we don’t even realize how sacred our fears have become, how protective we are of them, and how ﬁercely we will ﬁght to hide them from the world. Our ego has worked overtime to hide them, creating masks that cover the beliefs that stem from our secret fears. Our nightmares are a bevy of these thought monsters that have been lurking in the recesses of our brains and come out from the shadows to torment us.
There is a moment in childhood when fear takes hold, usually about the time we realize that our parents are human and ﬂawed, and we suddenly grasp that we too won’t be perfect. We wonder to ourselves what our ﬂaws will be. Soon enough they are shown to us through the actions of others. We grab hold of those hurts, and with the power of the imagination so carefully cultivated and encouraged by our grownups, we fabricate thought monsters out of the threads of words and comments hurled at us. These monsters will haunt us for our entire lives.
I distinctly remember the moment as a child when I realized my parents weren’t all-knowing, all-powerful beings of perfection. The biggest contributor to this was when my father could not explain to me the rationale behind believing in an invisible God who was hell-bent on killing me. My father, who, I believed, knew everything there was to know. My father, who knew instantaneously when I was lying, even when it seemed impossible for him to know. My father, who had an answer for every random “why” question my ﬁve-year-old self could muster, suddenly and shockingly admitted he didn’t know something. In that instant, my world shattered. My father wasn’t perfect.
I also remember how for most of my young life I thought my mother was the epitome of beauty. I believed that she had nothing but love for herself until one day in a store dressing room when I heard her muttering in frustration about how she was short and nothing ﬁt her. At that moment I thought, wait a minute, I’m short. Is this a bad thing?
Admitting Your Fear: Facing It, Conquering It
No one likes to admit fear. We are taught early that being afraid is a weakness, especially our little boys, who grow up to think they should be our warriors. I went to a movie the other day with my ﬁve-year-old son, and as we watched a trailer for a big action movie, he grabbed my hand, and I held his back. He asked me, “Are you afraid, Mama?” I said, “Yes, it’s scary.” And he said, “That’s because you are a girl.” Hmm, I thought, where did he pick that up? Channeling my best Will Smith voice, I said: “If we are going to survive this, you realize that fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Now do not misunderstand me—danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”
Okay, I didn’t really say that. But boy, isn’t that the truth! I did say something like that, only more for a ﬁve-year-old and in a cute voice. I also told him that fear was an equal opportunity bandit and that boys can be as afraid as girls, and that true warriors will admit it, face it, and conquer it.
We've Taken Fear of Survival Way Too Far
Fear was once used by our little brains as a survival mechanism, but we’ve just taken survival way too far. We’ve gone all mountain man on it and stored food and guns in preparation for the apocalypse. Seriously, people, 2012 came and went, and we’re all still here! It’s time to disarm and come down off the mountain.
Danger, on the other hand, is real; it’s why we have a fear button. But leave it to us humans to take a system perfect for saving us from, say, a real bear in the woods, and screw it up so that we’re afraid even when the only bears around are the ones we’ve created. Because that is what we do.
I have noticed in my own life how often I have not actually been present to what was being said, how often the words of others transmuted as they entered the world I had created in my head. The words become distorted and colored by my beliefs and the desire to be agreed with.
I hold on to a desperate desire to be loved, but believe I won’t be, so every word, every gesture of love, is tainted as it enters my mind. The thought monsters take over and whisper, reminding me that it is a lie, and like a good soldier, I follow my leader and self-destruct any opportunity for love. All the while my ego is saying, “See? You will never be loved. Now are you going to eat that ice cream or what?”
Do You Need A Crisis to Face Your Fears?
Why is it that so many of us feel we need crisis in order to face our fears, to bring about the change we already know we need to undertake? After my last big crisis, I asked myself this question. It seemed my crisis meter had an alarm clock and every ten years I brought about a doozy. Stubborn as I was, the complete annihilation of everything in my life was beyond the scope of what I thought I could manifest. But it was necessary, because in the aftermath, as I stood amidst the ﬂames of my life, I saw that fear had been my leader. Even as I fought to keep it at bay, ultimately that is what brought me to this moment.
As I sat on that plane and listened to the young soldier (you remember, the soldier heading off to battle in Iraq) speak of his love of writing and how he had conquered his fear of death and was willing to enter the ultimate manifestation of humanity’s collective fears and judgments of others while simultaneously carrying an internal fear that held court over his creative expression, I felt compelled to ask him if he had any of his writing with him. I already knew he did, and as expected, he reached into the small bag he had stowed under the seat and pulled out a small, ratty, black book.
He read me his poetry, his confessions, his deepest darkest fears, hidden underneath the bravery of his uniform. It was absolutely beautiful, profound, honest, and raw, and I cried and told him that he was indeed an amazing writer and that he had one fear left to conquer. It was a fear greater than the fear of battle, and the warriors on the other side would be mightier than any he would face in Iraq. He had to battle his own demons, his own beliefs about himself, and the programming so lovingly placed on him by people who didn’t know any better. Because if he didn’t do it now, he might never do it, his chance taken away in a distant place, thick with a different kind of fear.
Just like your beliefs and your masks, it’s time to take stock of your fears and face them. Because if the Law of Attraction, that idea that we manifest our realities based on ideas and energy we project out onto our world, is all it’s cracked up to be, then chances are you’re going to create a reason to face your fears one way or another. It might as well be on your terms.
©2014 Betsy Chasse. Reprinted with permission
from Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing.
All Rights Reserved. www.beyondword.com
Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World
by Betsy Chasse
Wife, mother, and award-winning producer of the sleeper hit What the Bleep Do We Know!? Betsy Chasse thought she had it all figured out...until she realized she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about happiness, love, spirituality, or herself...nothing, nada, zilch. In a book that’s anything but quiet, Betsy takes readers on a playful romp through the muddy fields of life and spirituality. Witty, yet unflinching, she exposes her own experience tipping sacred cows and dissects the fragile beliefs we all hold so dear. Because the truth is, we each have a choice to believe the stories we tell ourselves or create new ones.
About the Author
Betsy Chasse is an internationally known author, filmmaker and speaker. She is the Co-Creator (Writer, Director, Producer) of the film "What The Bleep Do We Know?!" and the author of 3 books including Tipping Sacred Cows, Metanoia - A Transformative Change of Heart and the companion book to BLEEP, Discovering The endless Possibilities for Altering Your Everyday Reality. She also enjoys blogging for Huff Post, Intent.com, Modern Mom and other sites. Chasse continues to make provocative films, with the recently completed documentary CREATIVITY and two currently in production--The follow up film to "BLEEP" and Zentropy a narrative comedy about what happens when the least spiritual person on the planet gets hired to make a movie about spirituality.