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What does a Nile Crocodile Have to do with Fear?

It was over two years ago my oldest son and I sat in the Houston airport reading “Consumed” it was about Hendrick Coetzee an adventurer who took his kayak through some of Africa’s most treacherous waters.  He lived for the adventure and died at the hands of a Nile  crocodile.


As we read on with the story and the horror of his disappearance my son looked on with awe and wonder “Why would anyone do that in the first place?” It is a good question is it for the rush of adrenalin? The thrill? Overcoming your fear?

It was this past weekend we watched 60 minutes with Anderson Cooper and he went diving with Nile crocodiles.  My same son looked on “Why is he so close to that crocodile?  It’s staring right at him!” In our observation Anderson Cooper did not seem to be in fear of the crocodile but a curious onlooker in the depths of a ravenous reptiles den.

The parallel between these two men is they  both appear  fearless but how did they overcome that fear? We all have our own Goliath’s to face whether it be a Nile crocodile or the avoidance of something that affects our daily lives.  Malcolm Gladwell writes about the great battle of David and Goliath “When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”

If the Nile crocodile was Goliath than Anderson Cooper would be David as he stared face first into the eyes of the carnivorous  reptile recognizing that he could get close because crocodiles can only look to the surface and second that they move much more sluggish in the winter.

Unfortunately, Hendrick Coetzee was on top of the water in his kayak which lead to his  tragic end  because a crocodile can always look up.  If you are floating  above the murky water  you never really know what is lurking in the depths of the current. Regardless, of how cautious you are when tackling Goliath there is still the unknown and the possibility of failure.

As a nervous Nelly the moment I see a snake I usually jump and run the other way. I am missing that one factor to be calm in the face of danger and am more apt to take flight.  This response comes from the fear centre of the brain which scientists attempt to examine the link between what makes some people run and others remain calm in the face of fear.

Scientific American points out, “People seem to have more than one way to work themselves into a panic. Contrary to a long-standing assumption of neuroscientists, humans can experience fear even when they lack the brain structure widely regarded as the brain’s ‘fear center’. ” As for many of us if something increases our anxiety such as swimming with crocodiles or playing with snakes we are more apt to avoid these dangerous situations.  The more we avoid our fears the more apt we are to view this as a failure and feed our fears more.

It is suggested in Psychology Today  that we need to expose ourselves to the things that make us anxious and tackle the problem head on. Such as the he more we expose ourselves to crocodiles the more apt we are to become more comfortable in their surroundings.

“On the psychological level, confronting your fear instead of backing down brings about a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. Every time you confront your fear you gain power while your anxiety loses strength (I can tolerate it; it’s difficult but not impossible; it’s not the end of the world). Every time you confront your fear you accumulate evidence of your ability to cope (I did it yesterday; I can do it again today)”

It is this ability to cope which enables you to succeed in confronting your fears for better or worse in your life. What we can learn from adventurers such as Cooper and Coetzee? Perhaps, it  is that they both were willing to face their Goliath  in order to explore unchartered territories. If you can fail today and succeed tomorrow is that not  truly a life  worth living.  Sometimes even if we do fail in the face of fear is it still not a  life of one well lived and loved in each moment.

How do you tackle your fears? Or do you prefer to avoid what scares you?

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Darcie Cameron is a RYT 200 who believes Yoga is a gift that is accessible to everyone with proper modifications, a patient smile and just taking the time to breathe. One of the greatest presents you will ever unwrap is when you connect your mind, body and spirit in perfect sync with your own breath. Connect with Darcie on Facebook

14 replies

  1. And you just had to ask the question. Sigh! I will not confront if I can avoid it, avoid anything. I was not always like that. I used to be fearless-enough. But I think that all we’ve been through in the past many years have made me become the fearful person I now am. I am afraid of everything in life. So there; I have admitted this to the world. 🙂

  2. Sometimes I avoid the fear. Sometimes I proceed slowly and carefully and over come it. My car’s clutch failed on a hill and now I’m working to over come the fear of getting caught on any incline with the car. I’m getting more confident, slowly.

    1. I have a confession I cannot drive a standard car and would have no idea what to do if the clutch failed on the hill. It sounds absolutely terrifying! I am glad you are moving forward and overcoming that fear. Slow and steady wins the race!

  3. I cannot seem to conquer my fear of spiders – creepy darn buggers! Just grab a big shoe I guess and get it over with because the vaccuum and broom are not within reach – ha!

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