Evaluating fear and how you face it
Are you a buffalo or a cow?
When storms roll in during your life how do you respond? Do you run away from the storm or do you run straight into it?
There is a well-circulated story that uses a metaphor about a buffalo and a cow's response to an incoming storm. As you read through this story (referenced from this blog post) notice where you recognize yourself as we go through our time of uncertainty:
"In Colorado, much like most areas of land that have a mountain range storms can be a bit tricky. With the Rocky Mountains as a mighty shield, only the strongest of storms come over the ridge and into the eastern half of Colorado and push through to western Kansas. It is when these storms make it over the ridge and into the plains that the cow and buffalo reveal their true nature.
When a storm is coming, cows will move east, away from the storm. This seems logical. The storm is coming from the west, so move east. The problem is that eventually that storm will catch up to the cows. The fear and the avoidance of facing the storm causes them to run. The cow hopes the storm goes away, and when it doesn’t, the cow is surprised that wishful thinking and strategy didn’t fix it.
In the case of the buffalo, well they do the opposite. They head west, right into the storm. This heading directly into harm’s way is counter-intuitive, but brilliant at the same time. They say if you want to watch a parade in faster time to walk in the opposite direction of where the parade is going. The same can be said about life’s storms.
When something bad, difficult, or fearful comes over the ridge, how do you respond? Do you respond like the cow, running (as much as a cow can run) away from the storm and hoping it chooses a different path? Or do you respond like a buffalo, going head-first into the storm, knowing that once you make it out of the storm, once your storm has gone past, the clouds begin to melt away and the sun comes out to an experience gained and a lesson learned.
If I were to be honest with myself, and you were to be honest with you, we would admit that we are just a bunch of cows that run away from the difficult and the fearful. I know I want to be a buffalo.
When the storms of life appear over the horizon, how do you want to act? Like a cow or buffalo?
What fears are getting in the way of facing whatever storm you have been avoiding?"
There are four things that can quickly cause us to cower, to run from the storms of life and hide out in the caves of fear:
- Fear that I won't get what I want in life or that I’m not enough.
- Fear of failure is rooted in the fear of rejection.
- Fear I won't impress people around me: Anxious thoughts flood my mind when I replay scenes from my day wondering what people thought of me, did they like what I said and did? Do they like me?
- Fear of bad news or trouble: this one in particular is shutting our lives down these days in light of the coronavirus. Fear does not have to walk hand in hand with taking healthy self-care precautions unless we give it the power to do so.
Cows run from storms, buffalo's run towards the storm and through it. Are you a buffalo or a cow? The choice is yours and will make all the difference in the outcomes you experience.
Family Connection: A Worry Jar
When I went through advanced cancer and divorce at the same time in 2006, my children were 8, 10 and 12 at the time. I put a jar on the table filled with pencils, pens and small pieces of paper. It was called a worry jar. Each member of the family would "anonymously" write down their worry at any time during the day.
Together over dinner we would each play the role of counselor as we took turns reading each worry for the day and offering helpful solutions.
Below was a real worry that my youngest daughter wrote down in her own writing and my sons verbal response to it (I knew who wrote which worry) :
- My Daughter wrote: "Im scrd to cee mommy wthowt haR"
- My Son Responded: "Don't worry, it's still mommy, her soul still has hair… and anyway it will all grow back and it might have flowers too. Just like we mow down the lawn it always grows back."
Use this time to create meaningful moments with those you love and care for.