I looked up in the shower this morning to see a large rat disappearing into a hole in the open-beamed wood ceiling in our basement bathroom.
Those who know me well, know that I have one true phobia: rodents. I can pick up spiders with my bare hands, turn and calmly walk away from a snake, and see blood without fainting or even reacting at all. So of course, I tend to see rats everywhere, even where most people hardly notice them. The fear of rats, mice and similar critters has, at times, given me nightmares or induced me to jump on top of tables or counters screaming like a cartoon character. (This behavior has delighted my teenage son ever since the first time he witnessed it at the age of two. We were building a fence and the pounding caused a rat to come out from under the house and head right toward me. I let out a high-pitched staccato scream that made him giggle so hard that I temporarily forgot to flee in panic.) This life-long phobia has even prevented me from visiting the retreat center where my beloved teacher is headquartered.
Now anyone who has read this blog knows that I work with fear continually. In fact, the most searched-on posts in my archives have to do with my work on the Coward, the archetype most closely associated with fear. My dear fans might wonder, “What does a naked, wet and cowardly rodent-hater do when she spies a big fat rat above her head?” The answer: she calmly investigates her fear.
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Just yesterday my business coach reminded me of this handy phrase. Maybe that’s what stopped me in my tracks this morning. Or maybe it’s the practices I have been doing around confidence, trust and certainty in my positive intentions. All I know is that I stopped, and for the first time I faced off, not with the rat, but with my fear of the rat.
You know what? In my calm observation and investigation there in the shower, I realized that it was not a rat at all, but the stub of a black PVC pipe going into a hole. The long tail? A metal bracket seen at a funny angle. Now I was naked, wet and laughing so hard I nearly slipped in the shower.
Fear is like that. We create what we fear with the power of our thinking. I’m learning that there is never a reason to react or make a decision when I am fearful. When I am afraid, that is the time to check, observe, listen, and investigate with all the curiosity I can muster. It probably isn’t what I imagine. And if it is, it might be more afraid of me than I am of it. In any case, there is always more room to maneuver when we “approach” what we fear. And sometimes there are even valuable gems hidden there. Like a good naked belly laugh. I really needed that.