In the middle of our local shopping mall, there is a giant trampoline with all sorts of cables attached to it. For $10, you can have someone strap you in and then jump and do flips for a full 10 minutes.

A little girl about 5 years old was waiting in line for the jumping experience, carefully watching the person currently on the trampoline, bouncing high and flipping around and around. She grasped her mom’s hand tightly. Her eyes followed the person spinning above, around, forward and backward.

After a few minutes, it was the little girl’s turn. A vest was placed on her back and tightened with straps. The cables made a loud click as they were attached to the vest. 

The people helping her stepped aside and told her to bend her knees and jump up. Instead, the little girl looked around and then screamed at the top of her lungs. A piercing scream that made everyone in the mall turn around. “I’M SCAAARRREEEEDDD!!” 

The mall went silent. Shoppers paused mid-step. All eyes looked toward the little girl.

I already knew what would come next. She would squirm to rid herself of the attachments and go bolting for the nearest ice cream shop. But I was wrong. She didn’t. She actually looked calm. The little girl said, “Okay, now I’m ready,” and she jumped. And flipped. For the full 10 minutes. A smile on her face the entire time. 

Life is full of all kinds of scary. We are often full of fear and full of courage at the same time. All at once. All mixed up. And when we are dealing with the scary stuff, our inner voice is often screaming, “I’M SCAAARED!!” All the while, we are trying to appear as if we are just fine on the outside. 

I once read that an acronym for fear is “Fear Expressed Allows Relief.” Like this little girl, we sometimes can get instant relief when we say our fears out loud and share them with someone else (or perhaps better yet, an entire mall full of people).

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.