putting Fear on the table

Once something bad happens somewhere, you can’t help but remember it each time you revisit the place- whether in person or in your mind. Ever since my car accident last summer, I’ve done my best to avoid the little street I crashed on. And I think about it when I have to go to the doctor- because that’s where I was coming from when it happened.

When scary things arise, they usually stay with us and eventually create heavy fears in our hearts. Sometimes, avoiding the confrontation of these fears makes them worse. We may push them so far away that they get blocked from memory. Or we go the opposite way and become consumed (to the extent that they dictate which route we take to work or which grocery store we shop at).

Everyone has fears. They can be common and socially accepted or irrational fears you can’t make sense of. There are fears we may not know we have until a change triggers those blocked memories. There are fears we’ve had since we were young, fears we’ve developed recently, and fears we’ll augment in years to come. We’re human beings. We’re afraid of things- emotional, physical, spiritual things, people, loss, etc. We know what it means to worry, to feel that lump in our throats and those shivers down our spines. We’re anxious, unsure, and confused. Risks freak us out sometimes. And to top it all off, society tells us that this fear thing… is bad.

We view fear as this negative thing that we must overcome. We have to be strong men and women who can’t show our soft sides. We’re expected to bite the bullets and crush what makes us quiver. There’s an underlying pressure to conquer our fears. We have fairytales with knights who are courageously slaying dragons and superheroes protecting cities from villains. And it’s very likely that we do not pick up on the sociology these characters portray.

Most people aren’t in the theatre analyzing Katniss Everdeen’s internal conflict as she debates sacrificing herself, worrying about her family, and figuring out how to break down her emotional walls. No, most people are watching her rage through the films, surviving, and conquering new fears as she goes. Movies don’t provide a full picture of emotion. That’s another tangent. What I’m saying is: whether it’s intended or not, failing to analyze and understand the human emotions our favorite characters have leaves viewers perceiving them as fearless. And being fearless isn’t a human trait.

When we we don’t talk about these things and the true messages that are being conveyed, we get sucked into simple illusions like: life is about overcoming your fears to save the world and bring justice. The end. Seal the deal. That’s all, folks. Amen.

But that isn’t the point at all.

Fear is a part of who we are. To disown or ‘conquer’ our fear is to sacrifice a piece of who we are. Our fears remind us what we’ve been through. I’m not saying we’re supposed to let them control us. Certainly not. But I also don’t think vanquishing them is entirely possible. I think Veronica Roth put it nicely in Divergent.

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

I don’t think life is about trying to diminish something that so blatantly defines our character. I think it’s about learning to live with these fears, using them as tools to make us better people. To try and strip ourselves of a personality trait as raw and vulnerable as fear is not in our nature. But to learn to coexist with our fears, accepting them and being in control of them- that is possible.

And I think that by accepting our fears, we are one step closer to accepting ourselves. Because you have to know all of yourself to accept all of yourself, don’t you?



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carissa Gan says:

    So true, Colleen. As always, your writing continues to inspire me 🙂 Thank you for this!

  2. I’m so glad, Carissa! Thank you.

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