Fear and excitement


I’ve always been a scared person. When I was little, I refused to get on a bus on my own. It’s hard now to remember exactly what it was I was so afraid of, but I think I had some scenario of getting stuck on the bus and end up somewhere very far from home with no method of getting back. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either, now, but at the time it was very very frightening.

Nowadays I can get both on the bus and on a plane to the other side of the world on my own – but I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of flying. Once I’m up there (and the drink service has started) I’m fine, but it is the few days leading up to a flight that has that low-grade nervousness running through me. I keep looking at things like I might be seeing them for the last time, even though I know fully well that flying is a lot safer than going on the bus every day, or even crossing the street. It doesn’t matter. Something about flying has labelled itself as dangerous in my brain. I blame movies. I think this is a very common problem.

So, I was looking up tips on how not to feel so nervous of things, but as usual none of the regular tips really worked for me. The gap between feeling nervous and feeling relaxed just seemed too big, to bridge by any breathing or patting or relaxation exercises, and there was no way I could just ‘turn off’ the nerves even with the best will in the world. Then I found this extremely helpful text about how, when you feel nervous about something, that emotion is very close to excitement. And when I thought about it, it’s true. Both nervousness and excitement are basically anticipation – only that when you’re excited you anticipate something good, and when you’re nervous you anticipate something bad. So rather than going from nervous to calm, I  should try to make the much smaller step from nervous to excited. And I found that this actually worked wonders for me on the bus on the way to the airport! I managed to feel a sense of adventure about flying rather than worry about things going wrong.