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Winning the Kingdom of Fears
The Queen was quite worried. Her first son, the heir apparent, was a timid boy. To the Queen, at seven years, he seemed to be scared of everything — darkness, being alone, heights, depths, people, speed … sigh, the list was long. What to do? To make matters worse, the King seemed to not be bothered - not at all.
Instead of confronting the King, she called the royal astrologer. He empathized: “I see you are worried, O Queen. You yourself are fearful. When you are afraid, how can you offer courage to your son? Also at this stage most of your child’s fears are imaginary - and so is yours, O Queen. They are, like an astrologer, predicting, albeit an unfavourable future. Fears are not about what will happen, rather what can happen. Which is why, we do not need to connect with the fears, but connect with the child who is experiencing them.”
The Queen was shaken but unsure of what to do. She called the royal healer. He advised, “Fear is a problem only when you see it as a problem. A cup full of poison will lose its potency if you mix it in a large tank of water. In the same way, fears will drown when we submerge them in an ocean of acceptance. Many of us mock at, laugh at, judge, discount or deny the child’s fears. We make a big deal or fuss about them. Instead you can show our prince that you understand his fears, but don't necessarily share them.”
Can she accept his fear? But how? She was restless. She called the King’s counsel, the strategist. He questioned her, “Your highness, think about a fear that YOU have.
We will come to our young prince later. Let’s see if we can work on one of your fears. We can use this to understand fears in general. So choose one fear - it could be anything - fear of lizards, fear of wars, fear of death - any one fear. It could be small or big, frequent or sporadic. Take a moment to think about all the strategies that you have tried out to overcome that fear. What really helped?”
“Nothing really helped,” the Queen remarked. “I still have that fear, I am living with it.”
The counsel questioned further, “But there must be some fear that you have left behind, say from your childhood.”
The Queen was surprised, “Oh! Some just vanished on their own.”
The counsel smiled, “Your highness, somewhere we think that fear is not good and that it has to be dealt with; that the child ne
eds to become brave, courageous, confident, etc., which is why we constantly think that we need to do something about it. But maybe, the best strategy would be to do nothing about it.”
Do nothing? But what IF? The Queen was still doubtful and hence anxious. She called the court jester. He poked her. “All our great Queen needs to do is to go to the tallest minaret in the palace and jump down. Surely, you will still be alive after that 500 feet fall and all the fear of our prince would have gone.”
“Are you sure this is a matter to joke about?” the Queen sounded angry.
“Precisely, our great Queen, this is exactly how our young prince feels and thinks when you tell him not to be afraid. For him these fears are all 500 feet deep. They are real. He must be angry that we all are joking when they are real for him. Also, fears are useful – or else everybody would start jumping out of our minarets,” the jester ended with a smile.
Hmmm… the queen was now pensive. She at least knew now what not to do. But do nothing, that was not just our Queen. What exactly to do? Who better to guide her but the King himself? He smiled and hugged her, “My dear, imagine your son was born with no fears. Hah! No enemies to defeat, no lands to be conquered. What is the prince then to grow on? But fortunately he is born with fears, each a cliff to climb, a fort to be captured, a enemy to be befriended. That he should do it himself is what will make a King out of our prince.”
“And with what artillery, with what army will he fight these wars?” questioned the Queen.
“Wars”, explained the king, “are fought in the mind, not in the battlefield. His artillery is his ability to think, to understand, to use data intelligently. Which is why we need not immediately offer him comfort. Rather we can offer a channel for him to find solutions on his own. His artillery is talking, drawing, researching, getting loads of resources on the fear. The more ammunition we give on the topic (of fear) the more he would understand it.
And his army is us - we have to listen to his thoughts, solicit and support his ideas on how he wants to be in each war. Child initiated solutions build resources in the child from within. Some of his ways would sound illogical or ridiculous. But as his army we shall be with him and wait for his victories to show up. He may lose some battles initially, but finally he will win the wars.”
The queen now felt a strange warmth in her whole being. She beckoned her son and hugged him. The warmth was shared. The royal astrologer silently predicted that this warmth will thence be shared amongst the whole kingdom.
Written by Aditi & Ratnesh
(Images of Madhubani art from Internet)