We all know, or at times may have been, the child who is afraid to go to sleep because there are definitely monsters under the bed. These monsters are just waiting for sleep to come, and then they crawl out and do what monsters do best. Fearing the worst, the child huddles under the blanket, afraid to let his hand fall off the side of the bed or to let sleep take over. The fear of what he can’t see keeps the child paralyzed, too frightened to get up or fall asleep, so he just stays where he is, waiting for morning to come.
As we mature, we realize our fear of monsters under the bed is silly. Of course, monsters don’t exist. We can’t be afraid of things that aren’t there, right? Logically, we know that is true, but very often the old adage proves true—the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the grown up world of job stress, mortgage debt, and small, countless daily crises, the monsters no longer lurk under the bed. Now they are hiding just out of sight, at the murky edges of our mind. These monsters, the thoughts of what might happen, can be just as frightening as the nighttime creatures of childhood. They can keep us paralyzed under the blankets, afraid to make a move or a change. Somehow the possibilities of what could go wrong are much more powerful than probabilities of what will go right.
Somehow it seems safer to do nothing than to make a change. The only problem is that without change, there is no growth.
So what is the best way to tame these grown-up monsters? Often times, it depends on the size of the monster. Many people procrastinate taking care of small issues because they are afraid of what the outcome might be. These aren’t life-changing decisions, just little bumps that come up in daily life that could make things a little more difficult if they don’t turn out right. One way to put this type of monster to rest is to list all of the outstanding issues, and face them one at a time. Take care of one issue and cross it off the list. Usually it turns out that the outcome you feared might happen—didn’t. One victory can give us the courage to face another issue, and before you know it, the list is finished, and the thoughts about what could have gone wrong slowly lose the power to keep us from taking care of necessary business.
Bigger monsters may be harder to slay. These are the monsters that haunt so many of us. The worst things that could happen if everything changed. There are several ways to work through these fears. One of the simplest, and perhaps most difficult, is to take the time to reflect on these thoughts, and realize that they are just that, thoughts. Not real, not actual, just thoughts. It is a mindfulness-based practice, focusing on the current moment, not the past or the future. Once you can do this–and it does take time and practice–these thoughts begin to lose their frightening power.
But by doing this and de-clawing the monsters, you can begin to take steps toward making positive changes. And that is one of the best ways to finally prove that there really are no monsters under the bed.