Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Monster to Hug

One couple spent a holiday driving in the mountains. “Every time you race around one of those narrow curves,” exclaimed the wife, “I just get terrified.”

“Then do what I do,” suggested her husband. “Close your eyes!”

We are all afraid at times, but closing our eyes may not be the best way through fear. I’ve found it better to open my eyes and try to experience those fears.

You’ve heard of facing your fears; how about embracing them?

I think one man’s experience with fear can help.

In 1972 David Miln Smith had such an opportunity. Smith, an adventurer, author and professional speaker, decided to spend a night alone in the famous St. Michael’s Cave on the island of Gibraltar as a test of courage. In his book Hug the Monster (Andrews and McMeel, 1996), he tells of hearing strange sounds all around him as he lay there in the pitch-black, damp, deserted cave. Most frightening was the fact that he came to believe he was not alone!

Fear became panic and he was afraid he was losing his mind. Then suddenly, as he was approaching his psychological breaking point, Smith thought to himself, “Whatever the monster looks like, I will hug it.” That simple, almost silly thought brought great relief to his restless mind. He soon fell into a deep and peaceful sleep until morning. He learned that embracing his fear, literally or figuratively, allowed him to subdue it.

We each have our nights of fear, don’t we? We all encounter monsters of some sort. We may fear spiders or insects, heights or crowds, abandonment or loneliness, the future or death. And most of us are occasionally visited by shadows of these monsters in the dark of night.

The next time you’re afraid, try “hugging the monster.” Face it and embrace it. It’s hard to feel afraid of something you’re hugging! And you just might be surprised at how quickly it slips away and at how confident you begin to feel.

That beautiful spirit Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.” But after looking it in the face, how about embracing it? Just imagine yourself putting your arms around whatever is keeping you awake in the night. Make it your friend… because it is! Whatever you fear, once faced and embraced, will actually make you a better person.

Now… do you have a monster to hug?

-- Steve Goodier

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