Fear (In Practice)

Modern society is a peculiar creature. We live in a world where everyone is afraid but no one is willing to admit it. Instead, we hide our fears in the shadows, pretending they either don't exist or can't be seen. This creates a dysfunctional society. Even my 12-year-old knows such cultural rules are not healthy.

Scientists have been studying the effects of secrecy. The white bear experiment in the 80's demonstrated how trying to avoid specific thoughts make us think more frequently about that which we don't want to think about. James Pennebaker has written books on communication and the secrets we keep. He studied victims who experienced violence at a young age, finding health issues were common when they got older because they kept their trauma secret. His book Expressive Writing: Words That Heal specifically focuses on writing as an aid for healing after physical or emotional trauma. Pennebaker argues in favor of divulging personal secrets because there are tangible health benefits. In the bible, the book of James says we should “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” And Proverbs says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

Clearly, our culture is more than just a little messed up. If scientists, psychologists, therapists, theologians are to be believed, we could all be a bit healthier if we were open and honest about our feelings. The things that scare us. Our worries. Our anxieties. Our doubts. We're not there yet. But if we want to change how society functions, someone must go first. That person will probably look weird. Their actions will be thought of as abnormal. When everyone fakes being fearless because admitting your fear could make you seem weak, those that flaunt their fears will look bizarre and perhaps even foolish. Yet, someone needs to go first.

Allow me to be that weirdo. Why? Well, as John Reuben said in his song No Regrets, “I'm secure enough to admit my insecurity.” Also, I'm not Superman. I'm afraid. A lot.

I'm scared of insignificance. This has been my greatest fear for as long as I can remember. I'm afraid that my efforts will count for nothing. That in the end, who I am and what I do won't matter.

I'm scared that my appeal wears off. I'm afraid that people like me when they first meet me, but once they get to know me, I'm not that interesting. Once you get to know me, there’s always going to be someone more charming, more dashing, better looking, wittier, funnier, more athletic. Once you get to know me, you'll discover you don't need me, like Christopher Robin outgrowing his stuffed bear Poo.

I'm scared of success. What if I actually succeed at my goal of writing professionally? I'm afraid that if I get a publishing contract and become a bestselling author, I would not know how to manage my finances and I would not be able to handle strangers recognizing my name and face everywhere I go.

I'm scared that my good enough isn't really good enough.

I'm scared that I will never be able to lose the weight that I need to lose and my health will suffer because of it.

I'm scared that my divorce has left irreparable scars on my kids. I'm afraid that they will grow up to repeat my mistakes.

I'm scared that no one will show my kids the love and respect I think they deserve. I'm afraid that I can't protect my kids when I'm not with them.

I'm scared for my two younger children. I am afraid that they will face injustice, discrimination, and hatred because of their Native American heritage.

I'm scared of running out of gas while driving. The low fuel warning light fills me with anxiety and I actively try to avoid seeing it turned on.

I'm scared of creepy kids. Movies like Children of the Corn or that episode of Doctor Who with the kids wearing gas masks who keep asking “Are you my mummy?” chill me and frighten me more than any other fictional monster or villain.

Image courtesy of BBC One.

Most of the time, I am just like everybody else. I hide it. I put on a happy face and get through my day. I work, I play, I take care of my kids. Like the saying says: fake it ‘til you make it.

But I am done with the charades. I'm scared y'all. I can't keep pretending to be OK. The cracks are showing, I might as well admit they're there. I'm a mess. I'm in a glass case of emotion. However, I'd be willing to bet you are too.

We are all scared of something, Maybe it's time we admit it.

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