Last weekend, I adopted a 7-week old kitten. We have a three year old furlady named Dixie already, but my husband and I have wanted to adopt a second cat for a while now, because as soon as my work permit comes through and I get a job, I won’t be around the house as much as she’s used to. So I brought this kitten home, and after a few minutes of exploration and initial uncertainty, he began to play and tear up the spare room that we’re keeping him in. We named him Indi. He is an adorable little menace.
Dixie reacted with a lot of growling, constant staring the direction of the spare room, and, on the rare occasion they’ve met face to face, hissing and growling at Indi. At first I thought she was being territorial and showing aggression towards him. But then I realized, since she wasn’t physically attacking him or trying to rip the door down, that her reactions were purely defensive. She was afraid of him. He is completely unfamiliar to her, and her regular routine has been disrupted by him.
So. Today I wanted to hop on my blog to talk about fear. Everyone has experienced fear in their lives. For some, it may take parachuting out of an airplane for that increased heart rate and sweaty palms reaction to be triggered. Personally, dentists, cows, and social situations do it for me. Yes, cows, you read that right. No, I’m not going to tell you why right now. That is a story for another time.
Fear can be utterly paralyzing. Often, as soon as those inital reactions begin- the sweaty palms, fast breathing, beating heart and racing thoughts- our first instinct, or certainly my first instinct, is to run away. Some things are easier to avoid than to face the fear they cause. In my case, avoiding the dentist won’t do me any favors though. Small problems will escalate, and the more I avoid treatment, the worse the problem becomes, and consequently, the more stressful the next appointment will be. It’s the same with public speaking- the less frequently you do it, the harder it is each time to get on stage. As scary as it is to admit, you just have to get back on the metaphorical horse.
You know what I’ve realized? Things are never really as bad as we fear. And after conquering a fear (or at least getting on that stage regardless of it), there’s always an overwhelming feeling of relief. That’s the feeling we must recall when facing our fears again in the future. Not the shaking hands and the racing heart, but the afterthought of ‘Was that really so bad?’.
Humans- and cats- among hundreds of thousand of other creatures, have a Fight or Flight response to a fear trigger. A note to my future self: choose Fight.