Weekly Feature

2012-10-18 / Lifestyles

Overcoming the obstacles of FEAR


Anita Pasquale hugs her friend’s dog, Luna, without a trace of anxiety now that she has conquered her fear of dogs. Anita Pasquale hugs her friend’s dog, Luna, without a trace of anxiety now that she has conquered her fear of dogs. Fear is what makes our hearts palpitate, our mouths go dry and our bodies tense up.

For some people, fear only comes in the form of a scary movie. For others, fear is something experienced in everyday happenings, emanating from common objects or situations.

It’s easy to fear something, but it takes courage to tackle those demons and move past them.

Jane Lawniczak of Lancaster avoided flying for more than 20 years until she was able to overcome her fear.

“When I had kids, I was afraid to fly because I thought if something happened to the plane and we crashed, my kids wouldn’t have me around,” Lawniczak said. “I never enjoyed being up in the air. I felt vulnerable and like I had no control over anything.”

After 9/11, Lawniczak’s fear of flying increased.

After 26 years of avoiding planes, Jane Lawniczak smiles near an airport elevator after her flight to Walt Disney World. After 26 years of avoiding planes, Jane Lawniczak smiles near an airport elevator after her flight to Walt Disney World. “I avoided flying for a long time. Unfortunately, it affected me for 26 years,” she said.

In 2011, Lawniczak faced an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. Her son was performing with the Lancaster Carnival Kids Steel Orchestra in Walt Disney


“I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see my son perform in Disney World. There was no way I was going to miss that,” she said. “It was like a forced opportunity.” When boarding the plane, Lawniczak said she was still nervous and gripped the seat with white knuckles during takeoff. However, she said she felt proud of herself once the plane touched down.

“I also felt a little embarrassed that my fear had prohibited me from flying all these years because

I’ve heard a million times it’s safer than traveling in a car,” Lawniczak said.

After confronting her fear, Lawniczak said she won’t let it stop her from traveling in the future.

“If I have the opportunity to go somewhere nice, I’m definitely going to take it,” she said. “My kids are grown now and can take care of themselves, so I don’t have that fear anymore either.”

Fear of flying, or aerophobia, is one of several common fears, along with fear of spiders, small spaces, heights and other people.

Anita Pasquale of Wheatfield managed to overcome two of her biggest fears: public speaking and dogs.

About 74 percent of the U.S. population have a fear of public speaking, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health.

“I was very shy when I was younger. If we had to do a report in front of the class, I had a really hard time with that. I remember turning beet red through most of those,” Pasquale said. “I couldn’t even call a place to ask for directions or for basic information.”

During high school, Pasquale decided to act on her issues with public speaking by starting small.

“I did little things first that were more comfortable. My friend would always be the one to call if we wanted to order pizza or something. I started making myself do those things,” she said. “Then I just started to work on overall confidence and not being shy.”

Pasquale started to gain self-confidence by imitating people she knew who were outgoing.

Once she entered graduate school, she slowly became more comfortable speaking in front of a class.

“We had to do a lot of class projects where we got up and did presentations,” Pasquale said. “We practiced it so much that by the time I was done, I actually enjoyed it.”

Now Pasquale, who works for Buffalo Public Schools, said she’s often called on to be a spokesperson at work.

Although Pasquale conquered her fear of public speaking in her college years, her cynophobia, or fear of dogs, lingered well into her adult life.

She explained that her fear stemmed from her childhood when her sister was bitten by a dog.

“I was around 10, and we were at my aunt’s house. My sister walked too close to the dog, and it jumped out and bit her,” Pasquale said. “I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t do much because I was afraid it was going to bite me.”

The experience caused Pasquale to develop an anxiety toward dogs and made her stress about them each time she went for a bike ride.

“I would have a full-on panic attack with dogs. If I was biking and a dog started barking, my heart would race,” she said. “I would pedal faster to get past the houses with dogs because where I lived, most of them weren’t chained up.”

Tired of worrying about neighborhood dogs every time she went out, Pasquale began spending time with her friend’s cocker spaniel.

“That dog helped me because it was sweet and mellow, and I got to trust it,” Pasquale said. “Then I started allowing certain dogs, ones that I knew were nice and belonged to people I knew, near me.”

Since then, Pasquale has become comfortable in the company of dogs and has even fostered a puppy.

“Even now a dog will catch me off guard if they’re really aggressive or have a loud bark, but I can handle dogs now,” she said.

Both Lawniczak and Pasquale said persistence is the key to getting past any fear.

“Don’t give up. Don’t miss out on doing things with family and friends,” Lawniczak said. “It’s much easier than you think.”

email: erikac@beenews.com

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