How would your life be different if you were incapable of feeling fear? Would your life be better or worse than it is now?
I googled “fearless,” looking for a good illustration, and I came up with dozens of shots of Taylor Swift with her hair blowing all over her head. I guess she sings a song by the name of Fearless. Shows you how out-of-the-loop I am when it comes to pop culture. The only reason I even know who she is? She’s a native of a city near where I live. That’s it.
Anyway. I saw this prompt two hours ago. Had an appointment, needed to do a couple of other things, so I’ve had some time to think it over, and I’m still not sure what I want to say. So pardon me for thinking out loud. This could be a bit of a ramble.
I would love to be fearless about a lot of things. I’m terrified of snakes. It would be nice not to have such a visceral reaction if one of the scaly creatures shows up in a TV program or photograph. I would love to be fearless about hiking through a snaky place like the Appalachian trail, or maybe the desert where diamondbacks and sidewinders sun themselves.
I have a fear of high places that drop straight down from where I’m standing, with no guardrails to stop my fall. When we were in Sioux Falls with my son and his family, we went to a theater like an IMax. We entered at the very top level. I got a feeling of vertigo, and it’s terrifying. I had to grab rails and turn my back, facing the chairs until I could sit down. It’s horrible. I’d love for that to go away.
There’s really not much else that gives me such a ghastly sense of fear and helplessness. Wait! Aha moment! Helplessness! Yes! Okay, enough exclamation points already, but I do think I’ve stumbled onto something. It’s the helplessness, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t like centipedes, but I’m not helpless with them. I can smack’em. Gone. Same with spiders. I hate the way the skitter, but I can always catch them and send them to spiderly heaven. Gross. But snakes and steep drops? Helpless. I’d be a great subject for one of those big dudes that hypnotize their prey. Here I am, just look into my eyes and hiss, and I’m done for. Kaput.
Well, I’m generally of a pretty practical frame of mind, so I’ve been thinking about how fear can be, and often is, a very helpful thing. The fear of sudden and painful death keeps me from playing in the traffic. The fear of extremely painful death keeps me from tasting bleach or inhaling a combination of ammonia and bleach. The fear of losing a limb keeps this granny off the ski slopes. That doesn’t seem like a negative thing to me; it’s just good sense. If I weren’t afraid of ending up in prison, there may be a trail of seriously maimed or comatose people in my backtrail. It is often fear of consequences that keeps of from doing something foolish, harmful to ourselves or others.
Other side of the coin? I love the way the kid in the picture is just standing there calmly facing down the wolf that’s about to make lunch out of him. That kind of fearlessness I admire. Standing up to bullies, standing up to difficult things we can’t avoid, standing up to fear itself.
I have a client I’ve been working with for over a year. She was having serious PTSD symptoms due to an accident she had witnessed. I can’t go into detail, obviously, but this poor woman hadn’t slept well in three years, and is still struggling with some fears that have changed her life. One of her problems is the inability to speak up in her own defense. I’ve helped her find her voice, and grow a backbone. She was afraid she didn’t have the right to speak up. Now she knows she does. Not only is it a right, it’s an obligation to stand up to the bullies, to back them down, to let them know you are NOT afraid.
I love my work.
And I’m not afraid to do it.