My basset hound Champ is scared of the garage. He’s new to our home (we adopted him two months ago) and, from his perspective the garage is the scariest place on earth. He won’t go near it from any angle or door. Champ’s behavior around the garage is typical fearful behavior: he barks, gets low to the ground, and backs away. If you try to lure him he resists. To him the garage is a place that makes loud noises (car engines, garage door opening and closing) and from which unknown and unfamiliar people and things enter into his safe space. I believe if he could avoid the garage forever or if he could eliminate it from our house he’d be fine. Interestingly enough, the more comfortable he gets in our home, yard, and around our property, the scarier the garage becomes. What he doesn’t realize is the garage is his path to the rest of the world. It’s how he gets in the car to experience the parks, beaches, and other fun things. It’s his doorway to more freedom and fun.
I find many similarities between Champ’s fearful behaviors and how we (humans) act around the unknown, unfamiliar, or what we don’t understand. We tend to shy away from these things. We back away like Champ does. Instead of exploring or inquiring about what we don’t understand, we avoid it. Like Champ, if someone tries to lure us towards the unknown or unfamiliar, we resist. We are comfortable where we are. Life has enough ups and downs. Why would we want to expose ourselves to more unknowns? Like Champ, the more comfortable we get in our belief-system or our way of living, the scarier the unfamiliar or unknown becomes.
And yet, what if, like Champ and the garage, we are allowing our discomfort or fear of the unknown to keep us from freedom or fun? What if, by isolating ourselves from what we don’t understand or from what is different from us, we are isolating ourselves from a side of life that is even more beautiful than we could imagine? If Champ never goes in the garage, he risks losing out on a week at the beach and many other great experiences. We do the same thing. We deny ourselves an endless stream of amazing life experiences because the unknown and unfamiliar scare us. We make assumptions about these things based on what we believe instead of opening ourselves to more learning and exploration.
What unknown is keeping you isolated or stuck? Instead of thinking there’s something scary about that person or thing you don’t understand or that belief-system that sounds drastically different from yours, why not imagine it as a doorway to a new field of life possibilities or a doorway to more freedom and fun? You just never know.
Think about how life would be if, like Champ, we were scared to go into the garage, or out the front door? We’d severely limit ourselves. This may seem silly because most of us aren’t afraid of the garage or the front door; yet, we limit ourselves in similar ways. The image of what we fear about the unknown keeps us from discovering a path to new possibilities and life experiences. This fearful image keeps us from walking through our doorway to freedom, just like with Champ. Perhaps a steak in the middle of the garage will do the trick for him. What would it take for you?
This blog was originally posted on The Huffington Post on August 30, 2016.