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Have you ever had those butterfly flutters of fear? You know when your stomach turns over just at the moment something is about to happen? I drive a highway to work each day. It is early morning when not many cars are out on the road. But the freeway is scattered with semi-trucks that I pass on my way. Often, I come upon a semi-truck that will swerve into my lane just a bit.
One particular morning on my way to work, I was in the passing lane, just reaching the left flank of a semi-truck. He had been driving on his side as I approached and had not swerved, so I felt secure to pass him. Just as my right front bumper was about to reach his left-back bumper, he swerved over into my lane. I quickly applied my brakes so he wouldn’t hit me.
Butterfly flutters of fear
As fear clutched my heart, I noticed a strange sensation. My heart had butterflies fluttering around inside it. The feeling of dread overtook me. My breathing and heart were racing, and I experienced a shudder throughout my body.
With this experience, I realized that the feelings that accompany an elated emotion are the same as those we also have when we are afraid. The only difference is the weight of the experience. Excitement is a fluttering of butterflies, while fear is the same butterflies with chains and weights attached to them.
Triggers of fear
Fears and adrenalin are the same for good and bad times. But the same fears can arise from a past situation also. If an experience produced the butterfly flutter of fear in you from the past, it would produce the same emotion today.
The initial fear is automatic, and then the adrenalin begins to pump; you will have the same reaction you did years ago.
Long ago, fears have memories attached to them. You can experience the same effect you felt years ago when something triggers the memory. You will get the exact same butterfly flutters of fear just as you felt in the past.
You can choose to change the way you perceive this fear. We will talk a bit more about this later but first, let’s look at what type of things may trigger past experiences of fear.
types of triggers
Almost anything can trigger a fear from the past. The triggers are different for each person but may run along the same lines.
- A smell-you fear may be associated with a smell present in you passed
- An object-possibly a doll or something that your ex kept around all the time
- Words-someone may speak words that cause a reaction. Or it may be their voice that reminds you of someone.
- Actions-a sudden movement or hand gesture can bring back the fear
It is usually something that you saw or felt at the time of danger. But as I mentioned earlier, the feeling of excitement or a good memory can be triggered as well. For instance, I often think of my mom when I have the same movements as she did. Or I am triggered by danger when I see a pair of green army pants that bring back extreme fear from my childhood.
Many times until you work through the triggers you may not recognize what caused it.
How can you change the past and present triggers
When an old fear in your life is triggered, you have a choice to deal with it in a non-threatening manner. What happened to you years ago is a memory. That memory can no longer harm you. But your body reacts the same as it did years ago.
What if you perceived this fear differently? What if you reminded yourself the past situation cannot reach you now? When the butterflies flutter and the adrenalin pumps, you tell yourself that you can overcome the fear.
What happened long ago can no longer reach you if you face it and acknowledge that it is just a memory. To change your reaction, you will need to look at the situation differently.
When you feel that chains and weights are dragging the butterflies flutters of fear too far down, you can decide to let it go. You can keep it light by realizing that the fear you felt in the past are chains that bind you. The fear will stop and allow your body to react differently.
So easy to say but not so easy to do
I know from experience that these suggestions I make are easy to write down, but when you actually put them into action, it takes help and tremendous work. I was that very person who would react to the past in the present. It took years to overcome most of it. Here are some of the things that I did to get past the adrenalin fight or flight response triggered every time I remembered a smell or an object.
- Keep an open mind-when ever you feel fear, look at it briefly and decide if it is a present fear or something you can’t quite put your finger on. If it is later, then go to the next step.
- Repeat this phrase-What happened in the past can no longer reach me. It cannot harm me today. I am in a different place and time. (this is the phrase that helped me the most.)
- Remember-A past fear only has as much power over you as you let it. If you give in to the fear, it will control you, but if you take back your power and realize that you are stronger, you will overcome it.
These are only 3 steps, but they are powerful when you repeat them time after time. I am a testimony to how the mind can overtake the body.
The more you practice these steps, the less your past fears will trigger. You will become stronger at controlling your reaction to the past.
So remember that the butterfly flutters of fear are only a reaction from your body. Ones that you know from the past and have brought into the future. Memories can only harm you if you allow them to.