Doing my daily walk the other day minding my own business, and I heard two dogs yapping up the driveway of a house. Not taking much notice I carried on. Then I thought hand on, that seems to be getting louder and sure enough these two little dogs were hot on my heels on this main road.
A lot of shouting from the owners and thankfully the two dogs made their way back down the road and up the drive. My heart was pounding! Now for most, it wouldn’t have alarmed the one bit, but jeepers it triggered something in me.
I haven’t had a great track record with dogs, being chased by one when I was younger and having to put my fear aside and get in between a big alsation that was eye ball to eye ball with my brother when he was very young.
On my way to New Zealand I stayed with a friend in Melbourne on the way and we were visiting his friend, we pulled up and he tooted the horn. I had opened the door to get out, but quickly shut it again when I saw seven dogs running straight for us. Was a tricky sitch as I needed to get my friend’s wheelchair out the boot, but I had to explain I was not going anywhere until those dogs had to calm down. Thankfully his friend followed the dogs, and we didn’t have to spend the evening in the car.
Anyhoo, hopefully that shows where the level of fear lies. A few months after arriving in New Zealand I was in a relationship, yes, with someone that had a dog, Nugget. Nugget was pivotal in helping me get over my fear of dogs; and now I am pretty good as long as they don’t jump up or bark really loudly. But obviously something deep was triggered when those two yappy little ones started to follow me down the road.
The next day I am walking the same walk, and I feel sick, there are the two dogs playing out the front again. So I am starting the reassuring self-talk, and continuing to walk closer, and as I do the white one makes a dash across the road, and then seems to come back again even faster. I’m confused; can’t make out what it is, realised it wasn’t big enough to be the dog. Heart was pumping from thinking it may have been the dog.
And yes, as I got closer it was a flipping hairnet that was being whipped along by the wind.
Our amygdala is one of the oldest parts of our brain and its prime purpose is to keep us safe. It is the part of the brain that gives us warning signs that we are in danger and gets the fight/flight/freeze response happening. Sadly it does not receive regular updates like our phones do, and so still sends warning signs and signals any time it deems we are in danger. These days it can be times like not getting likes on a post on social media, not being invited to an event or party. It might be not getting a reply to a text or being asked to meet with the boss when you don’t know why. Although they can be painful, these events don’t put us in immediate physical danger.
Am I afraid when I see someone wearing a hairnet or one in a shop? No. It’s the story, the meaning, that I put on to this hairnet that was tootling down the road, that triggered my amygdala in to action. I thought it was a dog >> I’ve been chased by dogs before >> I am not safe. Our red zone story reel has gathered a lot of evidence along the way to back up the beliefs and stories we deem as true. The more evidence we can give ourselves of the opposite, of the actual truth this will help heal some of those wounds and pain.
I could change my walk. I could stop walking altogether; but I don’t want to. There are many benefits I get from it, so I will keep doing my thing, irrespective of whether the dogs (or a hairnet!) come out again. Each time I walk past that house I will reassure myself that I am safe. I will allow any residue fear to pass through my body my focusing on it leaving in the exhale, and continue to gather evidence by repeating the mantra of ‘I am okay, I am safe, I have got this.’
I have healed other stories, wounds, beliefs. I can heal this one too.