Make Fear Look Like Peyton Manning

Last month I wrote about a boy named Dillon who thought his brain was telling him to be afraid of riding a horse. Dillon was scared to death of getting on that horse, but eventually he rode the horse anyway.

In my initial story, I left out a very important part of how Dillon overcame his fear.

Dillon didn’t just flip a switch in his mind and decide he would not be scared of the horses. His decision took time. In fact, we held up the rest of the group because we were trying so hard to convince Dillon to ride the horse.

So how did we do it? How did we get Dillon up on that horse?

With the help of Peyton Manning.

We knew Dillon loved football. He spent most of camp talking about his favorite teams and players. He was an eight year old stat machine, constantly rattling off statistics that only ESPN anchors would know.

In order to get Dillon to see the horse in friendlier terms, instead of something he was terrified of, we decided to use the NFL to our advantage.

“Dillon, does that horse look more like a Denver Bronco or an Indianapolis Colt?” I asked, mentioning the two NFL teams with horse mascots.

“Um, I think it is more like a Bronco,” Dillon said.

“Which one looks the most like Peyton Manning?” asked one of the other counselors.

This made Dillon smile.

From there, Dillon helped us name all of the horses in the stable after Broncos players. One was wide receiver Wes Welker. Another was running back Knowshon Moreno. One was even Broncos’ head coach John Fox (yes, Dillon could even name all of the NFL coaches).

Knowing that Peyton Manning was one of Dillon’s favorite players we asked if he might want to take Peyton for a ride.

Dillon’s face scrunched up and it was clear he was conflicted. He loved Peyton Manning but was still afraid of the horse.

After a few moments, and much thought, Dillon chose to ride Peyton Manning.

Fear is a powerful thing. It can make us think that our brains are out to get us. The fear of the unknown is awful because it is just that, unknown. When something is unknown, we assume it will be bad.

Dillon only became convinced that the horses were something fun, instead of something frightening, when he started seeing the horses as something he was familiar with.

We helped Dillon turn a stable full of horrible horses into the Broncos’ starting line up.

Dillon could not relate to a big, scary horse. But he could relate to Peyton Manning. He knew more about Peyton Manning than most NFL scouts. He knew Peyton wasn’t bad.

And it was only when he started to view the horse as Peyton Manning that the horse became a little less scary.

Turning fear into a picture of something you are familiar with is a great way to strip the unknown of its intimidation.

Dillon proved this when his love of the NFL won out over his fear of horses.


Photo credit: Wikipedia