Stand Still


By Sandra Lynam, MA, LMFT

black and white donkey head on a grey wooden fence nearby green grass field

Photo by Pixabay on

Have you ever been so afraid that you have the urge to run, escape, to get away from an event, situation or person?  I remember a time when I looked for the nearest escape.

She was big. To me she was huge. Her name was Becky. She didn’t typically seek out affection but tolerated our affectionate gestures. We would approach her and she’d either take a step or two towards us, stand, or walk a bit away. Her general attitude was something of benign tolerance. I don’t remember her ever eagerly approaching us.

Our grandparents lived around the corner, a mile’s walk by the road but only approximately a half-mile through the pasture and the woods. When I was somewhere around nine Grandpa bought Becky, a large mule.  I thought that he likely bought her for nostalgic reasons. He liked to hitch her up to a wagon and drive her around. We loved riding in his wagon.  He didn’t have a place to keep her so she lived at our place.

I had lived in town until I was five and I intensely wanted to live in the country. When I was going on seven, we moved to a small farm. I loved it! The freedom to run, to be in a world of adventure, surrounded by nature and animals. I spent most of my time outside, climbing trees, walking around the farm, to the ponds, creek, down in the gullies, and around the woods. My idea of heaven.

One day when we were still girls, my friend Carolyn visited. After being out in the woods we approached the big gate that separated the barn, pens and pasture from our back yard.  I was having trouble unlocking the latch.  It was rusty and wouldn’t easily open.  As I continued trying I heard the thunder of hooves.  Although Becky had never run at us, today she was running towards us fast!

I didn’t know what to do, but I feared being run over.  Becky was mere feet from us.  I shimmied through the barb-wire fence as fast as I could, yelling at Carolyn to crawl through.  As I reached the other side, I was horrified to see her standing still, holding her arm straight out, hand facing Becky much like a police officer stops traffic. I was sure that she would soon be run over. Carolyn stood still, never moving.

In less than a heartbeat Becky got close, put on the brakes and slid up to Carolyn, her nose mere inches from Carolyn’s hand.  She dropped her head to be petted.  Carolyn turned to me, her eyes as big as saucers.  In awe of her courage I asked in amazed admiration, “How did you know to do that?” She answered that she didn’t know what else to do, didn’t think she could crawl through the fence, and couldn’t out run Becky.  So she just stood still.

Stand still.  I often think of that day.  Fear can be a wonderful warning signal.  But sometimes we need to believe, have confidence that we will survive, know that making decisions when afraid can be a step toward danger — not away and stand still. Know that emotions and thoughts aren’t necessarily based on facts.

Sometimes when our self-protective fear yells “do something, run, fight, or hide,” we need only to stand still.  Face the fear.  Face the unknown future.  Stand still… Stand still.

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