There is such a thing as good fear, bad fear, wrong fear. The most important facet of deciding the propriety of fear is whether it is recent or ancient. If the fear is an experience you learned so  long ago, except under most unusual circumstances, it is inappropriate to a person with your adult strength, size and ability. Such fear has nothing to do with the present.

The other day, I was standing in my lobby near a grandmother (I think) and her boy of about 3 1/2 or so, sitting in his stroller. My first thought was why was he–at his size–sitting in a stroller rather than holding his grandmother’s hand and walking. It was an infantilizing scene, a child treated as younger, more weak and helpless than he is which represents his grandmother and/or mother’s over-protective stance.

Then a big brown lab dog everyone knew as “the greeter,” came over to say hello to the boy and of course to offer his love as is the way of Labs. He leaned over, was almost nose to nose with the boy. I smiled down at the two of them  seeing friendship bloom between them, and walked to the elevator.  When I entered the elevator, the woman pushed in the boy’s carriage behind me. I asked her if he got to pet the dog. Grandma said with fear in her voice, It isn’t safe for the boy to pet that dog. He is too small and the dog is too big. He isn’t ready for it.

I restrained myself from saying, “Afraid of a lab?” What I also thought is that “some day big enough” will never come. That boy will be taught to fear big dogs and possibly all dogs long before. Children learn what to fear, hate and love from what their parents and caretakers fear, hate and love. Since a child needs to believe that his care takers are wise and mean the best for him, their fears become his own.

An adult who wants to free himself of terror he recognizes or others have pointed out, has to figure out his history in order to free himself and mentally give it back to those who feared before him.

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