Something I have never had much of a passion for, is getting punched in the head so it hurts.
Come to think of it, I’m also not too keen on being kicked in the groin really hard.
These two phobias might not seem that odd until you remember that I am a Practitioner level 3 (orange belt-ish) in the wonderful Israeli self defence system Krav Maga.
As a kid I got bullied a lot.
From 9 to about 16 it was almost unrelenting.
This resulted in the “flinch” a tick that I have yet to be able to shift but which has wormed its way into many other areas of my life as well.
In Despicable Me 2 the one scene I didn’t find funny was Gru’s flashback to when he approached a girl he had a crush on at school and another pupil saw him touch her arm and shouted “Eww! He’s given her Grunies!” and the kids all scatter to the four winds. While for 99% of the viewers of this wonderful cartoon it would simply be a bit of acidic humour, for me it was a reminder of giving girls at school “Manleyitis”.
Result is that even today I can’t open a conversation with a pretty woman (or even a minger if we’re being honest) without feeling awkward or expecting that she’s going to get out an invisible air freshener and go “tsssss!” through her teeth while pretending to spray whichever bit of her I may have touched or bumped into while chatting.
Similarly I am a flincher when it comes to asking strangers for information as a 10 year old part of me expects that they'll simply reply “don’t you know THAT you utter fucking Joey?!!”
And of course, getting knocked about at school by kids that were themselves fodder for the tougher kids (yep, I was almost at the bottom of the pile with only John “Wanna see my willy?” Sears below me) meant that I became permanently phobic of physical confrontation.
There are of course, ways to deal with this. You can take up Tai Chi, meditate, do yoga or take up a martial art or sport. I myself do Krav, a sport I love but it’s only recently that I realised just HOW uncomfortable I am around staying for the 2nd class on a Thursday. That is the Combat class after the main session.
In this one we have helmets, shin guards, forearm guards and gum shields. Not to mention 16oz boxing gloves. We punch and kick each other, aiming primarily for the face, head and groin. I know teenagers who attend this class and who LOVE it. I know guys who go nearly every week and are adept at fighting even though they are a lower grade than me.
So how to deal with this flinching?
Last night I decided to bite the bullet and stay. Every instinct was screaming at me to just walk out the door with 80% of the rest of the class come eight thirty, but I stood my ground and put my hand up when my instructor said “who’s staying on tonight?”
Throughout the whole thing I felt uncomfortable and my heart was racing. Problem is…
These guys are my club mates and we were wearing lots of lovely padding and even though it was a combat class, we weren’t hitting as hard as we could and the instructor was watching all the time, and…and…
My issue isn’t the force used or the supervision or the padding or the pain. It’s the psychological belief that someone actually WANTS to hurt me.
My father cured his arachnophobia by making himself touch a big spider with his fingers. He said that he then realised they are not dangerous but simply creatures.
How do you cure a phobia of being hit? By putting yourself in a situation where you most definitely will be.
I lasted the whole hour and afterwards admitted to myself and the instructor that the reason I hadn't been coming for 6 months was that, at the end of the day, I simply don’t enjoy it as it makes me feel anxious, scared and unhappy. However, if I want to excel and rise in the ranks of this sport, then I need to step up to the plate and conquer my fear. The P4 grading is in 4 months and I want to pass this test like the 3 before it.
Being in that class again after half a year made me feel 14 again.
However I fundamentally believe that going every week for the next 2 months will make me feel 28 and after a year I will no longer have ANY issues with it at all.
I leave you with this quote that I saw last week.
What do I fear?
I fear stagnation and lack of progress.
I fear never reaching my potential and being average.
I fear being forgotten... The past... Yesterday's news.
I fear giving up and being passed by, going softly into that good night.
I fear letting those I love down, letting myself down.
I fear settling, giving in to the "that's just the way it is" mindset.
I fear dying without leaving my mark.
I fear not feeling these fears anymore and just floating along.
These fears feed me, they nourish my drive.
I love my fear.