Conquering Fear — Pilates & Writing Series: Part 4 of 5

Sometimes Pilates exercises are downright scary.  I have a short list of things I refuse to do when I go for a Pilates session.  They are as follows:

I will not…

1)  Do anything that requires me to lower my back side into the well of a reformer.  Why?  It creeps me out.

2)  Hang upside down from the high bars on the Cadillac?  Why?  I’m pretty sure I have enough strength to support my entire body in the air.

3)  Use the Pilates Barre.  Why?  Last time I did I was so sore that I could barely move for five days.

The list above could be entitled “My Pilates Fears.”  Right now they’re non-negotiable.  However, in time and with practice, I hope to overcome at least one or more of these “fears.”  That being said, from time to time there are things my Pilates instructor asks me to do that makes me raise my eyebrows.  However, since I know she has my best interests at heart, I give them a try.  After all, how will I grow with my practice of Pilates if I don’t try new things?

In the past, I’ve been comfortable doing Russian Splits.  However, that changed recently when I was taking a reformer class.  When I put my hands down to stabilize my body I accidentally pulled up on the handle rather than pressing down on it.  I immediately lost my balance and almost fell off of the reformer.  Fortunately, I was able to gain my footing to keep myself from falling.  Right after the incident, I found out that the handle on the Stott Reformer I was using that day wasn’t bolted down.  I had always used the Stott Reformer and had never had that problem before.  However, now that I knew the Stott Reformer wasn’t as secure as I’d like it to be, I vowed never to do Russian Splits on that reformer again.

I could’ve chosen to add Russian Splits to my list of things I won’t do.  However, I found a different solution, one that would allow me to begin doing Russian Splits again despite my fear of falling off of the reformer.  Instead of using the Stott Reformer, which I had grown accustom to using, I would use a Balanced Body Reformer.  The Balanced Body equipment is slightly closer to the floor and has handles (attached to the shoulder rests where ones hands rest for the beginning of a Russian Split) that are locked down to the reformer’s base.  The decision to get back up on the horse — or in this case the reformer — was the only logical thing to do.

All too often, I’ve seen young writers who are afraid to take risks.  They are afraid to put themselves into their writing for fear of exposing themselves.  They are afraid to write in a new genre for fear that they won’t get a good grade.  They are afraid to revise because it will take time.  They are afraid to share their writing publicly for fear they’ll be mocked.  They are afraid to do anything that feels new or different for the fear of the unknown.

Part of conquering fear in writing workshop is about building community.  When we develop communities of children who have respect for the written word and for each other we enable kids to take risks.  When writers feel safe in writing workshop one of their basic needs is met.  As you know, when children feel safe, it’s easier to take care of their other needs.  However, fear is not rational.  Children who are fearful about some aspect of the writing process, about being part of a writing workshop, or even about being called a “writer” when they don’t feel like one are not having fun in our writing workshops.  No amount of community building can help some student to overcome their fears of writing.  I worry that fear can silence young writers.  Fear can make a child unwilling to write.  With this in mind, it is useful to have a private conversation with a student, and if necessary his/her family, about their fears with regard to writing.  If you need help getting the writer to overcome his/her fear, then ask for it.  Seek out your school’s social worker.  It may take more than just you to help a given student work through a fear of writing.

The final thing I have to say about fear is not to judge someone for their fears.  I realize that my fear of lowering my backside into the well of the reformer is ridiculous.  I know the five springs in the reformer’s well will not allow me to fall.  However, there’s just something about the way the springs feel underneath my body that I don’t like.  My Pilates instructor may think this is completely bizarre, but she’s never judged me for it nor has she forced me to try an exercise on the reformer — not even once — that has required me to drop into the well.  I respect her for this.  It is because she respects this fear of mine, irrational as it is, that I’m willing to try other things that are out of my comfort zone.  Therefore, if you truly understand and can respect your students’ writing-related fears, then I think it is possible to find a point of common ground and move forward from there.