When I was a kid, probably somewhere around the ages of 5-7, there was a good chunk of time when I was afraid to go to sleep because I was terrified that the house would catch fire when we were asleep. Sometimes, during the summer months when the days were long but we still had to go to sleep while the sun was out, I would sit at my window and imagine how I would escape if the house did catch fire. I wondered if I could be brave and fast enough to tie the blankets and sheets together and use them to climb down from my window.
This lasted for a long time, maybe close to a year. I don’t remember how I got over it, maybe because other circumstances would develop that would occupy my thoughts instead. Nevertheless, it was a very real fear for a good long while.
I actually forgot about that fear for a very long time, and even when it did come back to mind, I couldn’t understand why I was so afraid of our house catching fire. I didn’t know anyone who had died in a fire or even anyone whose house had burned down. I just remember that I was so afraid of this, to the point of losing sleep over it.
And then one day, while describing to someone how my dad loved to take pictures, and it all came flooding back. (He was very meticulous about pictures––of course, this was in the day when you didn’t want to waste your film so you had to get the shot just right. He still takes pictures like this, mind you, just with his smartphone now so it’s even more annoying when you have to hold your smile for 7 minutes.) We had all been on the way somewhere, most likely on one of our annual road trips down to Mexico, and if Dad saw something that he wanted to photograph we had to pull over so he could. This one time, there was a big house in the middle of nowhere all ablaze. I don’t remember anything or anyone else around, just a big house on fire in the middle of the prairies, and my dad had to photograph it. Did I bother to ask why the house was on fire or how it happened? I don’t know. All I knew was that if it was possible for that house, in the middle of nowhere with no one else around to catch fire, how much more likely was a house with people who lived and cooked and sometimes lit candles in it to catch fire?
I didn’t realize, of course, that my brain had made that association at the time, so my fear of our house burning down made no rational sense. I wonder if I ever even told anyone in my family how I felt. Did they have any idea how terrified I was about this?
Now, with my work in holistic energy practices, it’s easy to understand that the brain makes those subconscious connections. Still it is nonetheless fascinating to see how all those things come together to bring us to the paradigms, beliefs and stories we come to live our lives by. And even more wonderful and fascinating that we have the power and the ability to change those stories to better serve us; that we can be empowered and emboldened to live beyond just the sum of our experiences.