As I’ve written about previously, I’ve spent a number of years nursing a painful back injury. When I first hurt myself, the pain was so intense and horrible that I vowed to do everything possible to not feel that pain again. I hurt myself exercising, so after that I started to exercise a bit less and with a lot less intensity and drive. I avoided many activities and was so cautious of my back that I started to stiffen up any time I made a move that might cause me pain. After about thirteen years of this, I very closely resembled Herman Munster from the The Munsters television show. If you have no idea who I’m talking about, I’ll give you a minute to Google him.
Munster walked as if he had a board running from the back of his head to his lower spine. He clomped around the house barely moving his head, neck or lower body. That was me. The less I moved, the more afraid I became of moving so I moved even less. Finally, when I realized that the Herman Munster walk was keeping me from enjoying life in an active way, and I looked rather silly, I sought out physical therapy.
The therapist was an evil, aggressive woman who was obviously out to break me and my fragile back. When she told me to loosen up a bit, I was ready to smack her. As she proceeded to twist my body into ridiculous pretzel shapes, I actually looked forward to the moment that I knew was coming. I was going to break, require traction, and be sent off to the emergency room. I would show her! Interestingly enough, I didn’t break. Surely this was a one time phenomenon. But each time I visited the now slightly less than evil physical therapist, I realized that I didn’t have to walk like Herman Munster. It was the fear of the pain that made me walk like that.
I started to exercise again. I took up yoga. I actually leaned over and picked things up off the ground without excessive moaning and complaining. Who knew that my problem hadn’t really been the pain, but rather the fear of the pain? When I stopped being so afraid of each movement, I started to move. Each move led to less fear and often less pain. Believe it or not, I actually thanked the previously evil physical therapist and graduated with the ability to touch my toes without having to sit on the floor and pull my legs up!
Learning to Release Our Fears
But here’s the bigger lesson learned from my Herman Munster days: the fear factor is epidemic and contagious. When I try something new and it’s hard or I fail, I feel fear. The fear then keeps me from trying it again. Not trying it again, makes me more fearful. Suddenly my emotions look like my Herman Munster body. It’s normal and understandable to feel fear; it’s just not very helpful to hold onto it.It’s normal and understandable to feel #fear; it’s just not very helpful to hold onto it. #pain #recovery #healing Click To Tweet
So is fear really the problem? Or is it our fear of the fear or of the pain that comes from the failure? And more importantly, what’s our way out of it? An evil physical therapist might help, but also our ability to see the fear as a roadblock and to nicely and gently move it aside can help. You can aggressively kick it out of the way if you want. Whatever works for you. We must realize that we are caught in our fear, face that fear, and then dive on into it. It terrified me to walk into that physical therapy office. I knew it would hurt and it did, but it didn’t kill me. It just hurt for a bit and then I started to feel better. Action led to more action and less fear and so it is with life.
Herman Munster was one of my favorite characters when I was a child, but I don’t want to be him. I don’t want to live my life stiff and in fear of the next painful incident. The incident will come whether I am afraid or not. As we take action and step into our fears, we reduce their power and increase our own. I’m not doing back flips quite yet, (Truth be told, I’ve never done one in my life.) but I’m not ruling it out either.
Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. CPC
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by Dr. Lisa Kaplin
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About Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D, CPC
Certified Life Coach and Psychologist at Smart Women Inspired Lives.
I’m the proud owner of Smart Women Inspired Lives, where I help overwhelmed and exhausted women move from the feeling of being “stuck” into a life filled with calm, confidence, and joy. In addition to the posts and articles I write, I offer individual and group life coaching sessions, classes and speaking engagement opportunities.
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