A light that never goes out

peter and clara by This post first appeared on the wonderful Relational Welfare blog from Particple. If you are at all interested in social innovation….making a difference….then do check it out.

Whatever book I’m reading or TV programme I’ve been watching I can’t help but see themes and links with our work at Bromford. When I read this recent Relational Welfare blog I was pleased to see that I’m not alone.

I was listening to astronaut Chris Hadfield on a TED podcast talking about fear. It struck me that he was talking about what we might call ‘external fear’. That’s to say fear generated by something real….out there….like being in a rocket heading into space. That sort of fear seems entirely understandable. We’d all feel afraid wouldn’t we?

Chris did feel afraid but he wasn’t crippled by his fear. He’d spent years learning what to do. He knew why he was afraid, what he was afraid of and knew it couldn’t control him because he’d learnt what to do to overcome it.

But what about that other kind of fear that starts as a little thought in your head; which grows and twists its way around until it has you rooted to the spot….the kind of fear that seems able to tailor itself especially to you?

Singer Morrissey has a knack for summing up complex emotions in a seemingly effortless lyric. He nails this kind of ‘internal fear’ perfectly in “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”

And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God; my chance has come at last (But then a strange fear gripped me and I Just couldn’t ask)

He takes us straight to that underpass…..words stuck in our throat…..words we really want to say but which just won’t come out. Terrified at the thought of what might happen if we do, makes the world close in around us. We feel completely alone and frozen in the moment.

Anyone seeking to influence the behaviour of others will be familiar with these special internal fears.

Fear of failure or rejection or ridicule.

They can trap people in destructive relationships; stop them taking up opportunities; stunt people’s lives. When we are somewhere we don’t want to be but feel completely alone…..can’t see a way out….then the fear can be overwhelming. We need someone to reach through our fear to connect with us and help us believe that the thing we are afraid of can be faced, can be overcome; that there is another, better future out there.

Achieving the belief that this thing can be faced is not easy. It needs to be built up over time through a deepening relationship of trust in that other. Building deep, trusting relationships is vital for any individual or agency that wants to help others overcome their own personal fears and make changes in their lives. Building that trust can’t be rushed. It has to be developed over time through being open, being honest about consequences and risks, doing what you’ve said you’ll do.

This was summed up perfectly by Clara Oswald in a recent episode of Dr Who. Clara’s boyfriend Danny had witnessed her carry out amazing acts of bravery to defeat an alien threat. Later he reflects that Clara hadn’t seemed afraid during anything she’d done:

“I saw you tonight. You weren’t even scared and you should have been,” he says.

“It’s because of the Doctor. I trust him. He’s never let me down”.

If we want to help our clients…customers…..service users….be brave and overcome their fears then we have to start by building their trust and helping them believe that there is at least one other person who believes in them.

Photo courtesy of http://www.dailydot.com

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