A quick thought on fear

I know this is the second “thought” post in quick succession, but while falling asleep last night I remembered something from my childhood: I could never sleep in the dark. My mind would fill it with all manner of things. The light in the hallway in front of my room would need to stay on. But my mind wouldn’t stop there.

When I turned my back to the door, I could almost feel all kinds of nasty things creep up on me, coming closer and closer until I would turn around – only to see that, of course, nothing was there.

Fear is an interesting thing. It always emerges from some sort of projection in our minds. From something our mind believes may happen in the future. And it is always about the future. Fear about the present moment simply does not exist.

Why? Because fear is always based on uncertainty. Uncertainty about how someone may react. Uncertainty about how we may perform in some future situations. Uncertainty about what we can’t make out in the dark.

This is insidious because our mind comes up with the fear, but there is no way for the mind to free us from it. There is no amount of logic in the world that will convince the mind of not being afraid anymore once it has crossed that threshold.

So, what can we do about our fear then? Fight it? That usually means suppressing it and, in doing so, ensuring that it will stay with us and control us. It never really works. Instead, the only real way out of fear is to face it.

Facing it doesn’t mean fighting it, though. Facing fear means accepting it. Surrendering to it. One night, while I was lying awake again, I switched off the lights. Turned my back to the door. And allowed myself to be consumed by the terrors of the night. If it was going to eat me, then this is how it would be.

As it turns out, I wasn’t consumed. And I never had a problem with sleeping in the dark since. Because as Emerson said: “Once we do the thing we fear, the death of fear is certain”.

22 thoughts on “A quick thought on fear

  1. Very true, we need to face our fears head-on! Think we all had probably the same childhood fear, quite normal. Even now if I watch a scary movie I still feel certain fears when I hear noises…lol

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  2. Working on one’s fears is an ongoing work in progress.

    One method I use is to remind myself when facing a difficult task or situation it will all be over the next day and I will be enjoying lunch somewhere with the family or watching a favourite show the following night.

    Often, it’s amazing how, once you are in the eye of the storm, you take one step after another and you emerge out the other side.

    I was someone who couldn’t sleep with the bedroom door shut. I had a very real fear of feeling trapped in the middle of the night. Getting married eventually sorted that. Peace of mind I think.

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    1. I like that method. It probably makes it easier to stop hyper-focussing on that difficult task.

      And yes, I agree. Especially since that step that takes one out the other side is often a step in the mind more than anything else.

      That seems like an awful experience to have. I’m glad getting married sorted that. Peace of mind sounds right – I can relate!

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  3. I have a lot of fears in my life, and sometimes I feel like facing them is the only way to go. But I don’t know how to face my fear of confrontation sometimes. It’s either too easy or too damn hard. There’s no progressive way of handling it. Here’s to overcoming all our fears!

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    1. Hear hear! It can certainly be complex. I also used to be uncomfortable with confrontation, until I realized that this fear was really rooted in a fear of rejection, which was again rooted in a fear of failure. Maybe looking into root causes can make it easier to pick the right battles, so to speak?

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  4. I’ve had similar fears like this that I’ve taken into adulthood. I’ve heard that facing them helps, but I’m so afraid to even make the steps to try. Send help!

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    1. You already have what it takes. You know you are afraid, that is already the first step. The second step is to surrender to it. This can mean different things in practice, but essentially it’s always to willingly allow whatever “it” is to occur. After that, you are free.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting perspective! I never realized it but I agree we are never really afraid of the present, only of the future and of worst possibilities imagined. Definitely something to ponder about more.

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  6. That is so true! Accepting something (that we fear, that hurts us, etc.) is the only way through a difficult moment. I remember when I was a kid I was afraid a thief would come in and kill me, so I started sleeping on my stomach so that if he killed me, I wouldn’t see him and wouldn’t die being scared… It sounds very dark but I feel like it’s exaclty what you are saying! 😅

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  7. That is true with most fears. I am afraid of heights. After my kids were born, I didn’t want to pass my fear along to them so I started to force myself to do things I wouldn’t have done before, like ride the Ferris wheel. Although I still refuse to do things like jump up and down on the glass floor at the CN Tower, and take the chair lift to the top of Whistler mountain, facing my fear by forcing myself out of my comfort zone has definitely helped.

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    1. Being afraid is not always bad! It’s one thing to not want to look out of the window of a tall building, and a totally different one to not want to needlessly challenge fate by jumping up and down on the glass floor at the CN Tower. To me, it sounds like you did an amazing job at overcoming the crippling aspects of your fear of heights, without removing the perfectly reasonable ones!

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  8. Love the thought – face your fears instead of running from them. But it’s easier for some fears and quite difficult for some others. Some fears you just have to outgrow by living life and experiencing things. Eg: fear of death – you experience things through your life that help you get over that fear. And if you don’t, that fear very rarely leaves.

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    1. I guess it is hard to conquer our fear of the things we never experience. Maybe a way out of that is to get comfortable with the uncertainty. It is also interesting that when it comes down to it, latching on to a “bad” interpretation of what may potentially happen is just as arbitrary as latching on to a “good” interpretation. So in some cases, we might as well hope for the best rather than fear for the worst.

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  9. You are absolutely right, we need to face our fears head-on! What you describe as a fear from childhood is probably very common. I know the sort of thing; some monster under the bed and so on. But what about other fears, are they the same? I ‘fear’ for the future, for my children and grandchildren! How do I face up to those fears?

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    1. Fears definitely seem to get more and more complex as we grow older. One thing that has worked for me is faith. Not in a religious sense, but in the sense that I choose to have faith in my ability to handle whatever situation may arise, even if I cannot control which situations I will have to face. And I choose to have the same faith in the people I love. In doing so, I am facing and surrendering to my inability to control what may happen to me or to them – but in a good way. Having faith in this way can seem a bit arbitrary. But then again, so is having that fear in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

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