Self Improvement: Facing Fear
What do you fear?
This article is the result of an article I wrote recently about Ted Bundy. My friend Rolly Chabot responded with the following comment:
“Hi Billy... Thank you for this. A hard thing to write about. Like you I was raised in a time when it was safe for boys and girls to ride their bikes for miles. To seek adventure where it led them and to do without fear.
Reading this reminds me of the constant vigilance parents are standing at. The fact we have a need for alarm systems in our homes. We are living in a far different world than i those days. We have become hardened by listening to the violence on the news, what we see on the TV and the movies we watch. Numbed really until it hits home or down the street. It is so sad that we have come to this today. So very sad.”
I then started thinking about the nature of fear and I wondered why we as a community seem to live in fear much more than we once did. From the time when I was a kid during the 50’s and 60’s to today there has been what I would describe as a quantum leap in societal fear. Many of our daily actions seem to be dictated by fear.
As Rolly mentioned, growing up back in our day there was seemingly no fear. We never locked our doors at night. We had no seatbelts, no bicycle helmets, no concerns about being shot by an enraged driver and although we had evil like Ted Bundy living in our midst we never concerned ourselves with the possibility of unfathomable horrors.
All that seems to have changed. I see signs daily of fear in our society and I doubt seriously if living in Olympia is any different from living in Topeka or Skokie or Tallahassee with regards to fear. So that leads me to wonder…..
What do you fear?
I’LL BE GLAD TO START WITH MYSELF
This is an interesting question for yours truly. I once lived in fear but it was buried so deep in my psyche that I couldn’t even vocalize it. I was afraid that those around me would discover who I really was and if that happened I would never have friends or loved ones. I was so disgusted with myself that I chose to live a lie rather than risk being discovered for who and what I was.
I have said often that I did not fear death in the past. Even when I almost died in 2006 I did not fear death. I did not quit drinking because I feared dying from the disease. Still to this day death has no hold over me, and I no longer fear people discovering who and what I am because I now love the person I have become.
I do not worry about friends or loved ones dying or being hurt. Although I have a healthy awareness of the increase in crime I do not fear it. Bev and I still do not lock our doors at night nor do we lock our car. I think that’s an important distinction by the way: being aware of crime and disease or whatever is much different than fearing those things.
I made a conscious decision in 2006 never again to allow fear to dictate my life and there is a wonderful freedom in that decision.
So, back to the original question: what do you fear?
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
Are you afraid of dying? You certainly wouldn’t be alone! What is it about dying that frightens you? Do you have a fear of heights or drowning, being poor or being the victim violence? Hundreds of thousands fear those things and much more.
Are you afraid, as many are, of failure or intimacy, losing your job or perhaps commitment? Maybe you are afraid of being alone or of being rejected! Many among you are afraid of the dark, spiders, flying, public speaking and/or big dogs. Again, very common and you have many out there who can relate. How about the fear of confined spaces or of falling in love? Crime certainly has to be at the top of the list for some; with the continual news stories of drug-related crimes, gangs, rapes and murders it appears that we live in a very scary world, one worth fearing for sure.
WHY DO WE FEAR?
Now we are getting into the nuts and bolts of this subject of fear. It’s one thing to know what you fear and quite another to know why you fear it.
I have known quite a few people who were afraid of physical confrontations and in particular getting in a fight. Mind you they had never been in one but they were terrified of ever having it happen to them. Now I gotta tell you that I grew up fighting. As a small kid and pre-teen I was constantly fighting my way up the social ladder in response to bullying. Did I enjoy getting hit and, I might add, hit often? Of course not; I was always dreading the next fight because of the inevitable pain. However, I still fought because I knew to not fight would hurt much worse. I was raised to demand respect and if respect cost me some bruises and cuts then so be it. I was determined to be a person who faced unpleasantness head-on no matter the cost.
So why are there so many out there who fear and what is the source of their fear?
Maybe they fear violence because they have witnessed it in the past. Maybe they fear big dogs because they were bitten once by a German Shepherd or maybe they fear spiders because they were traumatized as a child by some unfortunate encounter with a big, hairy one.
Few if any fears are irrational; there is always some reason for the fear. Psychologists will tell us that many fears are based on a fear of the unknown, that we fear what we have not experienced or we do not understand. Now I think we are getting to the nitty-gritty of the matter. One logically should not fear drowning since they would have never experienced it and yet many people have the fear of drowning. Many fear death and yet they have never died; in other words, they fear the unknown.
In these hard economic times many fear losing their job or their home, terrified of being homeless and yet I have known many who were homeless and found a way to not only survive but in fact be happy. In other words, once they had faced what they had feared they discovered that they had the ability to overcome that fear and if not thrive at least function and move forward.
My father was perhaps the bravest man I have ever known. I spent twenty years with him and never saw him afraid until the last year of his life. He had a mild heart attack (is there such a thing?) in November of 1968 and he changed drastically after that. I saw a man suddenly fear for his life and the final three months of his life he drank heavily and was visibly afraid. For the first time in his life he was facing an unknown that he could not understand and he was afraid.
What do you fear?
FEAR MUST BE FACED AND OVERCOME
There is no easy solution for fear but I am convinced that whatever it is you fear it must be faced or it can become debilitating. Whether it be through the help of a counselor, therapist or psychologist or simply by “strapping on some balls and being a man” as my grandfather was fond of saying, fear must be overcome and it takes a willingness to face that fact and act upon it.
I do not believe man was put on this planet to live in fear. We were born and given the abilities to live life to the fullest and to do otherwise is to cheat ourselves of all the wonders that await us.
Should we be aware of the crime in our cities and take steps of precaution so that we are not victims? Of course; to do otherwise would be foolishness, but to live sequestered in our safe little homes because of the fear of crime is unnecessary and self-defeating. Besides, as Ted Bundy and others have proven to us time and time again, the concept of a safe little home is a fantasy.
Should we be aware of the dangers of hiking in the backcountry? Of course, but to deny ourselves the joy of nature because we fear a possible bear attack is beyond comprehension for me.
Should we be aware of those out there who would break our hearts in a relationship and be wary before committing to a partnership? Of course, but to refuse intimacy because of fear is to cheat ourselves of the profound joy that love can bring.
There is no easy solution for fear. There is also no substitute for living to the fullest.
What do you fear?
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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