So what has me thinking about fear this week? 

Is it because a few nights of heavy sleeping have brought on nightmares, in which fear is unconquerable; or that because there are going to be some big changes and challenges in my life over the next year?

I’ve always taken a certain approach toward fear: tackle it head-on.  All those years of kid’s fiction, comic books and video games have taught me something.  Run away from fear and you’ll be running forever, but kick it in the nuts and you’re gold.

It’s not always easy, obviously. 

          pho-bi-a

          noun

          a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

If you could talk yourself out of it, you wouldn’t be afraid.  But fear is one of the biggest obstacles to happiness: fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of what people will think of us, fear of failure.  These fears stop us from having new experiences, discovering new places and new parts of ourselves, and worst of all, from trying.

I have never blamed a person for being afraid of anything.  But I lose patience with a person who doesn’t try to master their fear.  Successful or not, that is a respectable thing.  It is the definition of bravery. 

Case in point.  My girlfriend has everything going for her: she is beautiful, brainy, stylish and ambitious.  And yet, if a house spider materialises in the middle of the lounge, she freezes up.  Her fear is literally paralysing. 

Some people aren’t afraid of spiders.  I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with them myself, but I can snatch one up in a piece of kitchen roll if I have to and wash it down the sink if I have to. 

Nasty murderous giant that I am. 

There’ve been enough studies into why we have this irrational fear of such harmless, tiny things.  I presume most people agree that it’s an evolutionary throwback to when we were apes wandering through the lush forests of our deep past.  Those curious chimps who dared poke a venomous spider may not have survived to breed; those sensible or fortunate enough to stay away passed on some genetic predisposition toward creepy crawlies and this fear allowed the survival of their DNA to present day.

But we’re smarter than chimps (albeit marginally, natch) – so why can’t our rational minds defeat the notion that this spindly thing skittering against the side of the bath is something to be terrified of?

Fair enough, I live in the UK, comfortably far away from black widows, redbacks and camel spiders.  I’ve little to be afraid of (although there are a good dozen species in the UK capable of painful, poisonous bites). 

I can live with the little creatures if I have to, and my relatively shallow fear means that I can tackle them without acts of great bravery.  And yet to my girlfriend, whose fear is close to absolute, successfully capturing and releasing a spidery is supremely brave.   And capture it she did, setting the little blighter free in the driving rain of our front yard.

To her, the spider was two feet wide, with slashing palps and mandibles dripping with toxic venom, its bloated abdomen bristling with hair.  It was capable of leaping onto her face.  It was capable of 0-30 mph in about a second.  And it was most definitely a sadistic, predatory monster that would have taken great joy in sinking its fangs into her vulnerable flesh.

Fighting that takes bravery.  It has prompted me to tackle the fears, and to ask you to tackle yours.

Face them head on, don’t let them have any power over you, and post your success stories (however small) here on this board for your Bravery Points.

—dbx

Advertisements