By David Joel Miller.
What is the difference between scared and excited?
Some people live their whole lives in fear. Everything is scary when you live in fear. Being afraid doesn’t make something dangerous but dangerous things ought to scare us. So how come there are those people who seek out the things other people call scary?
People in recovery often are overwhelmed by fear of the changes that need to be made. Fear can be a trigger to take someone back to the old patterns of behavior. That very same person who is afraid of the challenges of recovery may have been constantly seeking excitement via drugs or mania before they began recovery.
What makes some of us attracted to risk and excitement? One theory is that people range between two extremes, scared-anxious and stimulation seeking. As new-born babies some kids are easily overstimulated and need to take breaks and others are constantly seeking more stimulation.
Anxiety and stimulation are considered basic personality traits by some in the psychological professions. So the anxious person sees a situation as scary and a stimulus-seeking person thinks of the very same event as exciting.
Our appetite for risk and excitement can also be learned. We learn from our own experiences and we also learn from watching those around us. What is learned can be unlearned. If you are afraid of a change could you come to view the possibilities of a new life course with excitement?
Transforming fear into excitement is possible.
Consider the case of two clients.
First client, Betty, is 18 about to leave home and head off for college. She is scared to death. She will be leaving her family and friends. She has never been particularly close to her family and does not have many friends but she is terrified that at the new school she will know no one and thinks that they are likely to not like her. Betty is not sure she can do this and wishes she had not let her school counselor talk her into applying to an out-of-town school. What if she fails? She is sure something will go wrong and there will be no one at the school to help her. She is afraid. To cope with her fear she may drink, use drugs or withdraw and hide in her room.
Client number two, Maria, attends the same high school as Betty, though the two doesn’t seem to know each other. Maria is also 18 and graduating. She likewise is about to leave home for a cross country college. The difference is that Maria is excited to be on the go. She looks forward to the new things she will learn and the people she will meet. Maria has high self-esteem, she feels good about herself. She also has high self-efficacy; she knows she can do something if she sets her mind to it. Maria will be the first in her family to attended college and she is proud of what she will be accomplishing.
The primary difference between these two students is not the situation. Both are academically well-prepared students accepted to an out-of-town college.
The real difference between the two students is the way in which they view change. Yes, there are underlying differences in temperament and in the emotional skills they have learned, but either could be taught to see the situation from the other perspective.
As parents, we sometimes need to teach our children to be fearful to avoid excessive danger. They or we grow up and discover that our fears are keeping us trapped. Changing your perspective from fear to excitement can alter the whole experience. Changing your view can move something new from the scary categories to the exciting group.
Performers, actors, comics and singers often get “butterflies” before they go on stage. They can interpret those symptoms as stage fright or they can think of this as the energy that sends them, to put out their best performance yet.
Athletes try to psych themselves up before a game or match. They transform that nervous energy which could be fear and keep them on the sidelines into an excitement that carries them to their best possible performance.
Is there something in your life that scares you which you need to start thinking of as an exciting new possibility?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books