I’m the first to admit it: I LIKE to feel afraid.
Even in my earliest childhood memories, I was attracted to the spooky and the macabre; from Stephen King to Scooby Doo, horror has always been my preferred genre. However, I like being scared only when I am in an entirely safe environment. Like in my bed reading a book, or on my couch watching a movie.
So count me out if you are going on one of those crazy roller-coasters that flip upside down. I know my karma and my karma says: “Risk it and become a cautionary tale“! The lady-decapitated-on-a-roller-coaster-who-now-tortures-teens-on-lover’s-lane-with-her-hook-for-a-hand, or something like that.
My best friend has a theory that you are either a horror film buff or a roller coaster enthusiast, and rarely the twain shall meet. But I know plenty of people who hate both, and the reason is plain: they don’t like to be afraid.
The truth is, in small doses, fear is good. Fear is a useful tool that promotes our survival. Fear makes us appropriately cautious when faced with a questionable situation. Even sometimes in a situation that isn’t obviously suspect, you get that feeling—your Spidey-senses tingle–and you know to proceed with care because something is not-quite-right.
I remember the days of driving my husband to the train station at 5 o’clock in the morning and the blind left-hand turn on the way. There was a light, but one day the light turned green and I didn’t go. Just sat there staring stupidly, like I didn’t understand what that meant.
Then, as I slowly came out of my daze and pressed on the gas pedal, a car blew through the red light coming from my blind side. If I had gone when I was “supposed” to go, he would have smashed right into us. So fear can be our friend.
On the other hand, …we are all aware, to some degree or another, of the so-called “culture of fear” perpetuated by the media and people in a position to manipulate the media. Be terrified by terrorists, ticks, and Trump! …Be suspicious of strangers, sun-exposure, and salmonella! We can only imagine how many tragedies could have been pre-empted if Americans didn’t feel the “need” to arm themselves to the teeth, or how many roads have been left untraveled for fear of an accident (or a lawsuit or just the unknown)?
When I was growing up, we had all this wonderful, dangerous equipment on our playgrounds, we didn’t wear helmets or seatbelts and we drank a lot of punch with red dye #2. I survived just fine, as did every single kid I knew. As a matter of fact, the worst injury I sustained as a child, the only scar I bear, was gained from tripping on some gravel as I walked home from our neighbors…well, I might have been skipping, if I am totally honest about it.
So skipping is very dangerous! GET THE WORD OUT!
Our fear reflexes are hard-wired into our systems, much in the same way a dog will turn in a circle before lying to mat down the tall grass only its predecessors slept in. Fear was keyed into our own ancestors for far more practical reasons than recognizing potentially harmful spam…there was actually a high probability they could be eaten alive.
Now THAT is something to fear! (And why I never swim in the ocean, #thanksalotStevenSpielberg).
But the fact of the matter is the chance of any of us being eaten alive is now statistically insignificant. Keep those words in your head, “statistically insignificant chance” as you scroll through your list of worries and fears. In fact, data proves that I have a 1 in 24 million chance of being seriously injured on an amusement park ride; meaning my fear of rollercoasters is actually irrational.
“Why worry, it will probably never happen” is not stitch sampler wisdom for no reason. When we live our lives in fear of the now totally metaphorical “lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)”, we are missing out on a lot of the best stuff the world has to offer.
Even our (totally normal) fear of our own mortality is a lot of wasted energy because although death is inevitable, medical advances and better education and self-care have significantly improved not only our life expectancy but also our chances of recovering from diseases that were once considered incurable. In our gun-crazy culture, your chances of being murdered are actually still less than 1%. Nevermind dying in a terrorist attack—hard evidence concludes that for all the money and policy we throw at this “problem”, we are essentially trying to prevent 6 deaths per year.
When you consider all of this, freedom from fear is really the only kind of freedom that matters. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are spending it on guns and security systems, you are not free. When you spend all of your time worrying about the bad stuff that might happen, you are missing out entirely on the good stuff that is happening.
Fear is a jailer that keeps us from our best selves, our best relationships, our best experiences.
Fear causes us to hold our tongues when something important needs to be said. The oft-quoted line, “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral” reminds us that the definitive Hell is a world where we do not live out our truth.
Fear keeps us from reaching out, fear keeps us from taking a shot, it keeps us locked up and tied down and heavily medicated (by self or doctor). There are no lions in the streets. There is very little left to be truly afraid of, in a statistically significant way.
Robert H. Schuller famously said (a lot of amazing things and), “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
Without fear, anything is possible. Trust your instincts, but roam freely. You are safe here.
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