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  • Writer's pictureKajsa Silow

The psychology of fears: fantasy vs reality

Updated: Jan 20, 2019

The other day a woman on Facebook wrote about her wish to go camping solo, but she was so controlled by her fears that she didn't dare to fulfill her dream and asked for advice. Her job was all about receiving daily input from negative and heavy incidents, which made her instinctive stats quite unpleasant and in her mind bad things would "most likely" happen. That was her world that she experienced every day because of her job, that became her truth.

You all (at least those of you who are women) have been able to read an interview in Heja Livet about how I handle all my frequent solo camping, and I also write about it every now and then on Instagram.

But for those of you who don't know - I kinda live ina tent, at least 50-200 nights every year. When I started camping solo many years ago I was really scared. Every night I thought I was gonna die and I slept maybe 2-3 hrs those nights, even if I was out for a month (maybe that's why I am what I am today haha ✌️🤪). Bears, murderers, rapists, monsters... I was convinced! But I wanted to head out so bad, my feelings were awful and felt so real, but I knew that it was only in my head, in my "reality" or "truth", and that the things that have affected me in that way are the horror movies, criminal books, bad news and blown up stories that were circulating daily, so I was more than willing to pay the price of too few hours of sleep to gain confidence and a sense of security in a tent with time. I just had to get used to it. So I brought my assault alarm, whistle, pepper spray, extra cell phone, and I always has a sharp tool nearby.

What does psychology say?

It's known that the body reacts to events in life and forms feelings thereafter - stress, happiness, anger, you name it, but it's also known that you can change it. Thoughts are true too, which means that the body reacts to the thoughts that shape our feelings. So: feelings are controlled by real life events AND/OR by our thoughts. That's also why we by training to think differently can reconnect and change our triggers to dare to do that which our bodies say we don't dare doing when it reacts with fear. We can create our own truth - and change our reality.

Take getting up on stage for instance, when the fears only exist in the head. Nothing has even happened yet, so why do we get so nervous or even anxious? Because our thoughts enter a set of events and scenarios that feel worrying, and so the body reacts with sweating, high pulse, panic, incontrollable energy, or similar. If one learn to think that he/she is an expert at what he/she's doing, that everyone's gonna love it, then the trigger will become positive, fun, exciting and relaxing. Another example is from the athletics, where visualization about succeeding is one of the most important tools when performing physical acts. We let our thoughts be formed after a certain move, and control our body's reactions to the positive.

What can you do to dare?

If you wanna learn to like something you have to trigger it with positive feelings. The tools I used to make it easier for me to get it done, made me able to do it even if I was scared. To not bring any "safety" tools for my mental monsters with me was out of the question in the beginning, it was that kit or no solo camping at all. That was one part. Another, more crucial part is that I quit feeding myself with horror. I stopped with what made me scared, even if the activity per se was positive (like enjoying watching a real nasty movies for instance), since my brain learned to trigger darkness to fear, sudden sounds to being followed, being alone in the forest to getting tortured and killed and no one can hear you and save you.

But the truth (reality) is, for each scary example there is also millions of magical ones. The likelihood that something bad will happen doesn't even exist, that's how small it is. But that doesn't matter for the body, it's been over-triggered by fictitious input so I knew that I was one in a million when flying, surfing among sharks, when I went to the doctor to get the verdict, and so on. So it didn't have nothing to do with the tent. My fears were only made up by those "one in a million"-stories that were the ones that landed on the news, so the fabric fluttering in the wind, those sounds behind trees, that solitude under a pitch black sky as unbearable since I was certain I was gonna die. My choice of spot and activity affected the mental power, as well as knowing if I had a safety kit nearby. But I sure needed to put some patience into my re-trigger training to get rid of fear associated with normal every day life scenes (like darkness), and to rebuild my self-confidence which I soon realized was just that obscure monster holding it back.

Nowadays I never sleep better than in a tent. I feel more safe than on any other bed or place, I sleep like a baby for more hours than I do at home, and if I ever need a proper rest I take a real good solo night out. And, speaking of safety, there is also no safer place than that, not even in your secured home with a roof and walls, heaters and food, and a lock on the door. It's the fantasies and expectations, the prejudice and illusions, that we need to reconnect to positive, delightful, safe, comforting, magical feelings - to understand the difference between being afraid of one's thoughts and our actual reality.

And this is all applicable on everything in life. Everything.

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