Conquering the kingdom of fears

Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

The Queen was quite worried. Her first son, the heir apparent, was a timid boy. To the Queen, at seven years, he seemed to be scared of everything – darkness, being alone, heights, depths, people, speed … sigh, the list was long. What to do? To make matters worse, the King seemed to not be bothered – not at all.

Instead of talking to the King, she called the royal astrologer. He empathized: “I see you are worried, O Queen. You yourself are fearful. When you are afraid, how can you offer courage to your son? Also at this stage most of your child’s fears are imaginary – and so is yours, O Queen. They are, like an astrologer, predicting, albeit an unfavourable future. Fears are not about what will happen, rather what can happen. Which is why, we do not need to connect with the fears, but connect with the child who is experiencing them”.

The Queen was shaken but unsure of what to do. She called the royal healer. He advised, “Fear is a problem only when you see it as a problem. A cup full of poison will lose its potency if you mix it in a large tank of water. In the same way, fears will drown when we submerge them in an ocean of acceptance. Many of us mock at, laugh at, judge, discount or deny the child’s fears. We make a big deal or fuss about them. Instead you can show our prince that you understand his fears, but don’t necessarily share them”.

Can she accept his fears? But how? She was restless. She called the King’s counsel, the strategist. He asked her, “Your highness, think about a fear that YOU have. We will come to our young prince later. Let’s see if we can work on one of your fears. We can use this to understand fears in general. So choose one fear – it could be anything – fear of lizards, fear of wars, fear of death – any one fear. It could be small or big, frequent or sporadic. Take a moment to think about all the strategies that you have tried out to overcome that fear. What really helped?”

“Nothing really helped,” the Queen remarked. “I still have that fear, I am living with it.”
The counsel questioned further, “But there must be some fear that you have left behind, say from your childhood.”

The Queen was surprised, “Oh! Some just vanished on their own”.

The counsel smiled, “Your highness, somewhere we think that fear is not good and that it has to be dealt with; that the child needs to become brave, courageous, etc., which is why we constantly think that we need to do something about it. But maybe, the best strategy would be to do nothing about it”.

The authors run an open unschool called Aarohi and invite all readers to visit and see how open learning can be an amazing way to work with children. They also conduct training retreats and online training for teachers and parents. Visit

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