Fight or flight?

by | Jun 14, 2020 | 0 comments

By Priya Arunkumar

Refusing to turn my back on darkness
There was a time when I used to tiptoe backwards from the kitchen sink, back to the dining hall of my home in India. I would not dare turn my back at the eerie darkness of the night, which I feared would spill forth some kind of frightning, evil monsters. Darkness held a vague fear for me.

I would not dare turn my back even if it meant not washing my hands after dinner!
Other nights, I would unleash my singing talents, especially when I would have to go out to the backyard to put on a light, or go to the kitchen or even to enter the unlit bedroom.

My mother would get the hint the moment I switched from silent to raga (musical) mode.
And she would suppress a smile when I would start talking loudly and asking her about many things, but only when I had to go to the back yard in the dead of the night. No matter what, I refused to turn my back to the dark. It was as as though some vile creature was peering at me from the darkness, watching my every move and getting ready to strike me.

This fear stuck with me for many years and it took quite a while for me to overcome it. Even though I may laugh today, whilst I pen this, memories of those sweat-drenched nights return me to my childhood fears.

It probably emanated from these homely warnings:
“Finish your homework, or else the boogieman will come and get you…”
“Eat your food, or I will call the policeman…”
“Don’t you go out at night, the monster lurking outside will gobble you up…” So on, so forth.

Funny, how you tend to instill fear, manipulate and get your toddlers and young ones to listen to you. Being an adult, you feel it is only right to somehow coax, coerce and get your little ones to obey you, no matter what fear you are instilling in their young minds!

On growing up, I realised that most of my fears were acquired ones. Slimy snakes, jumping crickets, chasing spiders and of course, the unknown, mysterious dark – all sprouted at a young age, developed and influenced by our own home environment and culture.

No, we are all not automatically scared of things as a child; the fear factors are all built on cues from our parents, starting at home, maybe other members, the maids, elders and related members. Of course as a young impressionable child, you blindly believe the words of your parents.

I believe that most of us are born free of all fear, boundaries and inhibitions; coming in to this world free of all fears; however, we grow up with one constant: fear.

Fear of those imaginary monsters your mom feeds you with for misbehaving.
Fear of heights? Or closed spaces? Or snakes, bugs, and rats? Of the water? Of darkness? And of course the fear of the unknown!

In reality, fear is not a problem. In fact, being frightened isn’t always a bad thing at all. Fear has been a survival mechanism for humans and all living beings for millions of years. It is a learned response that makes us want to run away from danger or stand up and fight; helps us identify threats; survive predators and natural disasters.

Fear is what you see, smell, hear, experience and live through in life; the life lessons that signals to the brain to create that adrenaline response that makes your heart to beat faster and your body to react, all in survival mode.
And we eventually learn that only true and tested method of facing your fear is to fight it over and over again!

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