Shooting Down Fear.

Field Time target range
Field Time Target & Training

I have a paralyzing fear of guns.  Always have, my entire life. I’m not exactly sure why other than growing up I’d always heard guns kill!  When I became an adult I learned that, no in fact people are the ones who kill other people, and a gun is just one way to accomplish that.  However, I still had this fear of even looking at a gun.  I’d always felt… I don’t know, like just touching it, would make the world end. It’s hard to explain, even for me.

But I think there are a few other factors as well, one being this reoccurring nightmare I’ve had for most of my life.  In it, I’m face to face with a gun, looking down the wrong end of the barrel, trying to scream and nothing comes out. I’m frozen. Ever had that dream? You wake up shaking and sweating? Well I’ve had versions of it for as long as I can remember, and it’s always the same, I’m paralyzed in the moment, with utter terror.

The other factor is that as a single mom, I’ve had a fear of not being able to protect my kids should something bad happen.  That’s probably my greatest fear in life.  I feel helpless in that scenario, and that is terrifying.  Probably because, the second year that the kids and I were living on our own, we lived in a tiny little two bedroom apartment. I purposely chose the upstairs unit because it had only one entry point into the house.  One night around two in the morning I heard the couple in the apartment directly below me fighting.  The man went outside and continued yelling at his girlfriend, making a big enough scene that the neighbors and I woke up, told them to keep it down, or we’d call the cops.  He left, an hour or so later he came back and fired nine rounds into the apartment below us where she was apparently sleeping on the couch. He’d walked around to all the windows firing into her apartment. I heard all nine rounds and froze in my bed. My kids slept right through it.

fear of guns
The bedroom window directly below mine

Soooo….. for all those reasons and maybe even others I’ve not yet figured out, today was a big day for me.  I was in Los Angeles, CA for a work team meeting which was culminating with a team building activity, at the shooting range.  At first I didn’t think much of it, figured it might be kinda fun, I mean it looks that way on TV. I figured I’d be fine, no big deal.

Until I walked in the door and heard the gun shots, then saw all the guns.  My knees instantly got week and I wanted to vomit. It was a complete physical reaction, the likes of which I’ve never experienced and couldn’t control.  It was the exact helpless feeling I’ve always woken up with after my nightmare.  When the instructor began going through our orientation I got more and more nervous, litterly having my first ever full on panic attack. I felt sick to my stomach, like I couldn’t breath, or walk or stop shaking. It was embarrassing, but nothing I could control.  My reaction was shocking to ME.

shooting range

Thank God my instructor was amazing and agreed to stay by my side, until I felt comfortable.  When we got into our cube and he held the loaded hand gun up, handed it to me and showed me how to aim and pull the trigger, I was shaking so violently I thought I’d drop it.  But what shocked me the most was when I fired that first shot; I instantly burst into tears. No lie. Uncontrollable sobbing.  I cried through all five first rounds. Harder with each pull of the trigger.  Shaking.  Like some out of body emotional reaction that I had nothing to do with, and didn’t know where it came from. I just looked at him and was like “man, I’m sorry, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me”.

Today I faced my greatest fear dead on.  I think on some level it was like turning the gun on that intruder in my reoccurring nightmare. Like I was finally the one who said, “enough is enough.  You can’t terrify me any more.”  When my instructor pulled in my target sheet, I’d hit all five rounds directly in the heart.

Holy shit. 

I can’t explain why it felt liberating, but it did.  I feel like I could protect my family now if I had to and was ever in that situation. That I’d have a better idea of what to do, and as a single mom, and that feels good.  Facing fear and not living under it’s spell.

This densest mean I’d ever have a gun in my home, or ever take the step to “protect” us in that way. It does mean that for me, I feel like maybe, just maybe, if that horrible greatest of all fears looked me in the eye, I might not freeze I might have the courage do something, run/hide, whatever. Just not freeze.

Sometimes doing what we run from the most, and what terrifies us more than anything else, can actually set us free.


My first time holding or shooting a gun
First 5 rounds I’ve ever shot, hit the heart.

P.S. This does not mean that I am in favor of guns, to the contrary I support tougher gun control. I believe that though it’s true guns do not kill without the person behind them, they make it too easy to impose mass destruction and take innocent life.  I pray this issue is addressed quickly so people like me don’t have to live in fear.


Sarah Centrella is the author of the book Hustle Believe Receive which teaches you how to apply the #HBRMethod to change your life and live your dream.

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  • December 6, 2012 - 9:07 pm | Permalink

    WOW, incredible story, I felt like I was standing there watching.if we’re not able to take a risk & face our fears, we’re stuck with our fears controlling us. A gun is a piece of metal, shaped to fire a missile that can is people who kill, not humans. The use of guns are abused & I don’t believe there’s anyway to ever stop that.(personal opinion). I think you over came your fear properly at a gun range with instructions, & there is a freedom when understanding your fear.the danger is that a lot of people are killed with there own weapon. There are other weapons you can use also to protect yourself.

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