How does a reasonable adult become afraid of bicycles? The same way we all become afraid of anything in life—we have a bad experience with something, and then hide behind our favorite way of coping with fear.
I have done just this. Six years ago, while on a biking trek with my husband, I took a nasty fall. With face swollen for days, major bruises on legs and arms and a thoroughly engulfing headache, I had good reason to stay off my bike for a couple of weeks. But something bigger than aches and pains took over. I lost my confidence and I became afraid. And when I’m afraid, I freeze.
And that’s where I’ve been for these last years. Frozen, static, like an ice cube in the Yukon in January. Fear is such a strange thing. It has nothing to do with reason or logic, it emanates completely from our base brain—the part that takes care of emotions and sense of safety. Once that has been rocked, it takes concerted effort to break out of jail.
So, as I’ve written about in the past month, I decided to sign up for a triathlon. I did this knowing that I was afraid to get back on my bike. As I started training I focused on walking, jogging and swimming. No biking in sight. Then I stared down the calendar a few weeks ago, and realized I only had three months to train for this thing. The blessed deadline was staring me in the face.
Funny thing happened on my way to getting back on my bike. About two weeks ago I got injured, and had to take almost a week off. While I was recovering I realized that a bike I hadn’t ridden in over five years was going to need some rehabilitating. So step one was to take it into the bike shop for maintenance. Phew. That bought me a week, while it was in the shop.
Now I’m a week behind in my training, and I still haven’t gotten on the bike. Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that I became injured just as I had to face getting back on the bike? Ha! No coincidence. The reality of facing my fear had set in. Could I delay facing the inevitable through injury and waiting for my bike to get a facelift?
Sure. But now I’m face to face with that deadline, and my choice to put myself back in the rider’s seat. So how does a freezer like me deal with her fear? She structures an occasion that requires unfreezing. So I am now facing my mental ice cube by facing my bike. Step one in dealing with my fear is to step into that bike pedal.
What are you willing to structure for yourself to allow you to face your fear? We all have a favorite way of dealing with fear—freezing, fleeing or fighting. What do you need to face? Thawing out your fear, standing still long enough to face it, or calming yourself down to deal with it? Think about it. Facing fear can be the most freeing experience of your life.