St Patrick’s Day is here and the celebrations are in full swing, from turning rivers green (famously in Chicago and even locally the Hillsborough River) to parades and parties. The reason for the celebration, according to tradition, is in honor of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. However, as there is little evidence that this island ever had many snakes. Apparently, as snakes in biblical terms represent evil and Pagans were considered the same by Christians, it was the Pagan folks that were driven away (or converted.)
I like to use the metaphor in my life in a bit different way. I am not in any rush to drive Pagans or any other group of people out of my life, but evil can leave. Now, I am not plagued by evil, don’t mean to imply that.  However, anything that stands in the way of my true inner peace can leave now.
Ironically, I once had a horrid fear of snakes. It took some self -hypnosis and contact with the creatures for me to change that.  So, what are the snakes that I and so many others I meet deal with? FEAR is a biggie! Fear can rob us of inner peace as quickly as it becomes a thought.
We have a continuous inner voice that seems to rage on and on when we are anxious or fearful. This self-talk hugely affects our emotions and behaviors. When we start telling ourselves things that don’t line up with reality we get into trouble. We start thinking and believing thoughts that just aren’t true and these false beliefs become a prime breeding ground for unhealthy fears.
Often our first impulse when we experience fear is to avoid the source. When the danger is real, avoidance is an appropriate tactic. When fear is irrational, avoidance is inappropriate and will only make the problem more intense. Many people are in the habit of seeing the negative side of any challenging situation. When we focus on the negatives, we resist taking action and continue to avoid, becoming stuck. The more we focus on the possibility of loss the more anxiety and fear we create.
Avoidance is a serious obstacle to dealing with fear because it works. We temporarily feel good through avoidance. The problem is we can condition ourselves to avoid something rather than face it. As a result, we give a portion of our lives over to the thing we fear, letting it control us. Avoidance will never make fear go away.
You may find it helpful to make a list of any specific fears you have and get them out in the open. In each situation that leaves you feeling hesitant or fearful, try to understand exactly what is holding you back. What is it that you are afraid will happen and why? Are those things really likely to occur, or is there only a slight chance? If you take your fear to the extreme that you are worried about, what are the odd of that extreme coming through?
Next, use a separate sheet of paper and create a list of the benefits you stand to gain by moving forward. Be as specific and optimistic as you can. Remember that dread and fear will amplify your perception of the negative possibilities, which can make the positive benefits seem significantly smaller or less important. So, you may need to work a little harder at emphasizing the positive.
Comparing the two lists, you can then make a balanced decision. You will have a better, more balanced view of your options.
Recently I spoke with a woman plagued with anxiety attacks. Apparently, the onset of these attacks coincided with her beginning a job search. The more we discussed her concerns about finding the right job, the more her fears were expressed. When we took these fears to their extreme, she decided she was not likely to end up a homeless bag lady or dead on the streets of Tampabay. As we discussed the possibilities of what could go right, her fears began to dissipate.
In her case, she decided to move forward with the job search. She is not going to let fear get in her way. So, her snakes have been driven away.

Take a moment today to channel your inner St. Patrick and drive those snakes out of your life. Breathe in that inner peace, picture and imagine the beauty of those Irish hills and wonder what beauty might be waiting for you to enjoy.