Have A Beer With Fear
Fear is a powerful master. It's not so much what it makes you do, i.e., cower, cry, scream, shake, as it what it keeps you from doing that makes it so strong.
There are all kinds of fears. The common fears - the ones that are recognized and slapped with a latin prefix and phobia suffix - almost make us feel normal when we have them. Find any group discussion about fears and you'll find people sharing their tales of spiders and snakes and tall buildings. Most of the people snicker a bit when discussing these fears; they know that common house spider is never going to hurt them, yet they recoil in horror when they see one, as if some B-movie they saw on the Sci-Fi network is going to be acted out in their kitchen. Creepy crawly...creepy crawly...
But a fear of spiders isn't going to rule your life. It's not going to change your world. Neither will a fear of snakes if you live in, say, New York City. The only snakes you'll come across will be in glass cages in some nature museum. They may even be stuffed. So you don't think about it on a daily basis. In fact, you never think about, until SSsssss comes on tv late one night.
Perhaps if we analyze ourselves enough, we'd see that our common, small fears are just manifestations of bigger fears. Maybe that guy who fears snakes is just afraid of the image of the snake - the forked tongue, the rattling tail, the evilness inherent in the creature. Perhaps this guy is really afraid of the devil. Or not. You could do a lot of reaching if you over analyze your fears.
However, there are fears that don't involve live creatures or other easily identifiable and/or explainable things like the dark, or crossing main streets or Michael Jackson.
I know, for instance, that my fear of wide open spaces is more than just a fear of vast oceans or miles of wheat fields. It's more like a fear of the horizon being too far off - or not being able to see the horizon at all. It's a fear of no end in sight. It's a fear of the uknown, of not being able to control what lies before me if I can't see what lies before me. It's fear of vulnerability. And it's just one of those insidious psychological ploys your mind throws at you just to make things interesting. A mental monkey wrench.
The fear of failure is an interesting thing. It can keep you from doing something you were, perhaps, meant to do. It can keep you from reaching beyond where you are, from stepping up and out, from becoming what you had envisioned yourself as back in third grade when your teacher asked you what you want to be when you grow up. Maybe you thought famous author, but said teacher, because it seemed more plausible and nobody would laugh at the idea. But when you went to bed that night, you still had the same dreams in your head of being an author or a world class chef or a movie star or a brain surgeon - yet the doubt has already crept in and the aura of failure begins to creep up, like a tickle in the back of your throat that eventually becomes laryngitis. Self-doubt is your virus, and you don't tell anyone your dreams and hopes and ideas because - what if you fail? They're all gonna laugh at you, indeed.
At some point, fear of failure becomes fair of success. Maybe you talk yourself into believing that you can become that successful author or singer or third baseman. But what then? If you succeed, they'll only want more. The pressure will be intense. You'll have to repeat your success over and over in order to keep people believing that you are the real deal. Who needs that? So you don't do anything. You keep at your 9-5, or you keep cashing the unemployment checks and you spend the rest of your life wondering what would have happened if you had just conquered your fear of failure, before it turned into a fear of success.
Then there's that fear of not being liked. That can paralyze a person to the point of abject terror. You try to fend it off early. Maybe you buy lollipops for the class or lift up your shirt for the boys because that will get them to like you. You know it makes you feel ugly inside, but hating yourself when you look in the mirror is certainly better than not being liked by the people you spend your whole day with. Right? You compromise, you sell out, you bend ways you weren't meant to bend, just to keep people from saying bad things about you and crushing your spirit or even your will to live. Only you are allowed to hate you. And you never tell Ed that you think he's a creep and you never tell your boss that she's a bitch because you just want to be liked. So you pretend to like the movies they like and believe in the causes they support, just to feel like a part of a whole. Eventually, you get tired of your own charade. So you stop trying to be social with people. You stop accepting invitations. You keep to yourself at work. You don't go out much and you don't interact with other humans too much because you are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. You want to be yourself, but you're afraid they won't like you. So it's better to just be yourself by yourself.
Maybe you do find a group of people that accept you. They like you, they really like you. And then after a length of time hanging out with them, your opinions on things evolve, change. And that fear of not being liked kicks in again, so you leave the room every time the subjects come up. Or you just stop hanging out with them. Maybe they sense that you aren’t completely like them anymore and they do that thing that tight groups of like minded people tend to do and they treat you like you're the head cheerleader who just announced to the school that she doesn't like football. You never do tell them why you don't like football. Instead, you try to talk about other things with them. You try to justify your stance. You try to still remain one of the gang because your fear of not being liked is much greater than your sense of pride.
Sometimes you end up with a sum of all fears. They tie themselves together in loose knots and maybe one thing, maybe two, maybe a series of events pulls the string and makes one unifying, debilitating fear out of all of them. It's only when you recognize that you're being choked with a knotty string of fears of your own making that you can begin to loosen the grip it has on you.
Overcoming fears is not an easy task. Sometimes you have to submerge yourself in the things you fear in order to get past them. Sign up for that chef's class. Get out more. Say what you mean without couching it in niceties and justifications. Get on a boat and stare at the ocean. Open your closet door. Look under the bed. Stand at great heights and feel comfortable with being there.
[File this under Self-Indulgent Posts I Will Have The Urge To Delete Several Times During The Day]