I was chatting with the wonderful Engel Jones a little while back (he’s currently going for the world record for the most podcasts in 3 months). One of the topics we were talking about was our earliest memories. Talk about unexpected insights! It was one of those “Woah!” moments. Let me explain…
My earliest memory was from when I was about 2 years old. We used to live in an old farm house in the countryside. As such, it didn’t have mains water supply. Instead, there was a pump in the pantry. It pumped water up from a spring at the foot of the garden.
To me, the pump was massive (I remembered it as being the size of our fireplace!), it made a fearsome noise, and it was (not to put too fine a point on it) utterly terrifying! I always remember that the pump scared me. I was unable to bring myself to enter the pantry – no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t ever bring myself to set so much as a single foot into that room.
Eventually, it was time for the family to move to a new village to start a while new set of adventures.
By this time, I was a big brave boy of 4; but even then I still could not bring myself to set foot in that room!
I kept telling myself I would do it before we left, but when the time came, I simply couldn’t do it.
I would walk up to the door of the pantry, determined to finally face my nemesis. Heart pounding, scared but determined I could not leave this old home without facing down the source of my fear. Only for all my bravado to drain the moment I reached the door and saw IT.
I would freeze.
I felt the fear welling up inside; all the old terrors, fears, nightmares, and more.
And I would run away from the door, back into the safety of the house.
When we left the house for the final time, I had never managed to face my Nemesis. I had never managed to conquer that fear, and now I never would.
Many Years Later…
Many years later I finally mentioned this to my Dad (during one of our chats reminiscing about the Old Days).
Would you believe it?! It turns out that this huge monstrous pump was about 1 foot by 1 foot. Far from being huge, it was a tiny thing quietly pumping away to itself.
And what’s more, he never realised that I was so terrified of the pump – mainly because I never told him about it.
As I shared these memories with Engel, I was hit with a sudden and massive thought – what if this was my earliest memory not through chance (as I’d always assumed), but it was actually my unconscious attempting to send me a message.
Sounds crazy, right? I mean, what sort of message could anyone send my remembering a scary pump that wasn’t scary after all?
And that’s when it dawned on me.
I’d spent those couple of years being terrified of that pump, it was the scariest thing in my entire world, something I could never quite face, a fear which I could never conquer, something which stopped me from being able to enter the pantry.
And yet, the reality is, as I look back upon it, it was something very small and tame; it posed no threat to anyone at all (not even 2 year old me).
Not only that, but no matter how frightened I was by what I felt was a scary monster of a threat, there was a very simple way I could have made it safely into that pantry. All I needed to do was ask my Mum or my Dad to help. I know they would have taken me in, they’d have showed me there was nothing to be scared of. They would have helped me to put the “problem” into perspective and to overcome it.
What’s This Really About?
And, of course, this is not about a pump at all.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it definitely seems that my unconscious has been trying to remind me for a long time now that when I feel that I am facing an insurmountable problem, or facing a deep-seated fear, then no matter how things seem, the reality is that it is never as bad, dangerous, complicated, scary or frightening as I think it is; looking back at the same situation from some point in the future will reveal that it was almost certainly an insignificant problem in the great scheme of things.
And, perhaps even more importantly, the realisation that I never have to face any situation on my own – there will always be people who I can call upon for help, people who can help me to find a way to completely conquer any situation, if only I actually just ask them!
Something For All Of Us
Isn’t that true for all of us?
I mean, look back upon any of those times where you were facing a massive challenge of problem. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see the reality. They were never as bad as they seemed at the time. And there were always sources of help, if only you’d asked.
When we ask for help, we an achieve so much more.
Even with fears.
I see it every time someone asks me to help them conquer their fears.
They start off with an often deep-seated fear, one which has been holding them back for far too long.
They end up removing that fear so completely that they are able to see and embrace the new possibilities life now has to offer.
And, crucially, they are able to appreciate and recognise that the source of their fear was never actually as big, bad, or dangerous as they’d felt at the time.
(They also usually express the wish that they’d come to see me about it years ago, interestingly!)
Award-winning coach, international speaker, multi-time best-selling author, hypnotist, occasional magician, and writer of this post, Keith spent his first 40 years suffering from several phobias including being terrified of speaking with strangers. After one incident too many, he started studying and training in NLP & hypnosis to conquer his own issues, found he was rather good at it, and changed careers (aided by redundancy at just the right moment after 20 years in IT). He helps people transform their deepest fears into their greatest strengths, and having helped over 5,000 people across 5 continents, he is the UK’s #1 Fear Strategist.