How Learned Happiness Can Overcome Acquired Fear

By: Annett Tate

Carefully, silently he peers around the corner and when the air is clear he ducks and dashes from one safe place to the next. His habitual reaction is ‘flight’. At the slightest unexpected movement or sound, he saves his hide – fast as a flash and silent as a mouse…. In the five years little Ben has been with us, there hasn’t been a single incident that endangered his life or harmed him in any way. Yet he is always on the run and trusts only one person and sits only in one lap.

He was a rescue cat; a half starved, abused and sick little creature – saved from feline hell just in time to survive. Now, he’s safe in a haven of gentle caring and still he scuttles, dashes and runs. It took me a while to understand that Ben doesn’t run because he’s afraid anymore, he runs because that’s what he has always done. The fear he acquired has turned into a habit that defines everything he does.

Even when the house is quiet and no one else is around, this little black fur ball doesn’t stride gracefully like any other cat, he moves like a flash and at best he trots. For the first 9 months of his life, that’s what assured him survival and now, long after the causes have been forgotten, the behaviour continues – a habit acquired through fear.

Watching him makes me realise how the experiences from early childhood create habits that become deeply ingrained – how unconsciously they influence everything we do. It also gives me a profound sense of gratitude that unlike that driven little cat we humans have a choice of replacing acquired fear with learned happiness.

Whether our early childhood years were marked by happy memories, safe surroundings and confident comfort or whether we had to dash and dive, undoubtedly these experiences will influence our self-esteem as much as our perception of the world as a safe place. And until the moment we realise that we do have a choice on how we allow these early years to influence our lives, we are pretty much their prisoners.

But then, when we understand that it is within our power to let go of the fear and learn joyfulness instead, something incredible happens.

We stop running, scuttling and hiding and we let go of the need to blame. As the realisation of our own power increases, the force that once dragged us back into the past diminishes. That’s when we begin to gracefully glide through life. But how do we ‘learn’ to be happy?

First, by making the simple decision to be joyful; and then by committing to follow this path ‘no matter what’. The great times will be when we are distracted by happy experiences and forgetting about the past is easy to do. But the moments will come when it all floods back and wallowing in what ‘was’ will seem the only thing possible. That’s fine – accept it and then decide to be happy again.

Make it easy for yourself by developing your personal joyfulness strategies – healthy ones, not the chocolate-by-the-pound kind. Write a list of things that would make you really happy and create a plan on how to use them when you need to.

My happy hormones flood my system when I take a long brisk walk, when I dance or sing along with a favourite tune, when I look at an image of something really beautiful or share special moments with a special person.

By making the conscious decision to let go of the less happy memories from my own past, I have learned to be joyful. I feel free of blame, guilt and resentment. On a good day, I glide through life like the cat who ate the cream – fearless, happy and free.

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Annett Tate helps people achieve ultimate wellness and health. She teaches Emotional Freedom in her EFT seminars and shares her thoughts, inspiration and advice at

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