Why Is My Child Afraid of the Silliest Things (like butterflies)?

Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.

-Thomas Harris

What is fear?

Miriam Webster defines fear as an unpleasant, often strong emotion, caused by expectation or awareness of danger.

Fear is a feeling. As such, it doesn’t have to be rational. It just is.

The truth is, fear is what stops many of us in our tracks. It keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us from public speaking, it keeps us from talking to that person we find attractive, it keeps us from hot air ballooning, (that’s me, I am never going up in one of those things) and a multitude of other things.

When a fear significantly impacts our lives, we call it a phobia. The fear of heights, the fear of spiders, the fear of large water masses, the fear of bridges… there are as many “the fear of…” as there are things in the world.

Feelings are personal and generated from within an individual. I am certain that there is something that you fear, that your significant other, sibling, or friends do not. Therefore, it is not the actual situation that is the problem – it is your reaction or emotional response to the situation. For example, we all know someone who is fearful of heights yet we might not be. Therefore, it is not the “height” that is the issue – it is the person’s response to the height. That fear is generated from within because they have either a conscious or subconscious “expectation or awareness of danger” in association with the height.

With that said, we can then say that it is their imagination of what could happen that places them in a state of fear.

Now, if we are oriented most of the time (meaning we perceive the world relatively accurately), then our fears are based on real-world possibilities. For example, being afraid of public speaking because people may laugh at you, a fear of heights because you are afraid of falling, or being afraid of snakes because they can inject you with fatal venom.

On the other hand, what if our fears are not based on real-world possibilities? What if my fears are based on what can happen in my imaginary-world? In this case, the possibilities don’t follow the rules of physical world cause and effect. This means that maybe I am fearful of swimming in pools because a shark may come out of the drain. Or, I am afraid of opening the front door because there could be a monster, waiting for me on the front porch. Even worse, I am afraid to let you leave my sight because you could just magically disappear.

It would be like living in the movie Jumanji – terrifying!

All fear is generated from our imagination. ALL OF IT!

And who are the people in your life you know with the grandest imaginations?

That’s right. Our loved ones (or ourselves) with ADD and/or autism.

That ability to imagine is what the great innovators of this world have used to solve problems and create theories and inventions.
However, it is also what can cause the recluse to never leave their home, or our beautiful autistic child to dread the arboretum because of their fear of butterflies.

We don’t have to be able to make a rational connection to acknowledge their fear. We need to honor the fact that they are fearful of something and give them tools to overcome that fear. This is especially true if it is inhibiting their ability to participate fully in life.

So…how? How do we help them to overcome what seems to be an irrational fear?

Here is the short answer:

  1. Help them to achieve orientation by going over the tools for orientation found in the book, The Gift of Learning, by Ronald Davis.
  2. Give them the tools for anxiety and internal energy level that are also found in the book.
  3. With the ability to become oriented (become focused to the real-world) and decrease the feelings of anxiety, they are ready to begin to experience the real-world and the way things are really happening. Not how they ‘think’ things are happening.
  4. Now they can begin to see that every time they open the front door, there is no Jumanji (or monster). It’s just the front porch, every time.

Of course, there is more to it than that – but it’s a start.

The longer, more detailed answer can be found in the book or by contacting a Davis Facilitator.

I like the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R). I think it sums it up very well.

Until next time…

Keep it simple.

Dr. Angie

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