Have you ever noticed the idiosyncrasies that come forth as we attempt to hide the fact that we are afraid? Life can be truly terrifying yet we make out fear to be a weakness. Human beings will ‘overcome their fear’. We have therapy just for conquering fear! But fear can be a healthy option for us. Am I afraid of a rattlesnake? Yes. I am afraid of snakes in general and I am afraid of rattlesnakes specifically because they are poisonous. Being afraid of a rattlesnake is a healthy alternative to pretending not to be and getting bitten, wouldn’t you say?
The fear of death, in general, I believe is a healthy fear as well. I am not going to jump off the roof of the building because if I do, I may not only break my legs, I may die on impact. We do not use ladders deemed unsafe, life vests that won’t hold our weight in the water, or drive our cars without ensuring our babies are secure in their car seats.
Many fears we have been written into our DNA to survive the elements. Children are fussy eaters not just to give their parents a hard time! There is a reason. Their pallets were genetically designed to stop them from eating foods that were poisonous and can be followed through history to the period of the hunter-gatherers. When we touch something hot we flinch before even thinking, this is to protect our extremities from getting burnt. We run inside when it rains… this I still do not get and have no reason for other than vanity.
How many remember the friendly neighbor Mr. Rogers from the after-school program for children? I heard a story that as a small boy he would watch the news with his parents and would be afraid when they reported on acts of violence or devastation. His mother, as the story goes, would always tell him to look for the helpers. This would calm him. This calms me. And I do, when looking at something upsetting, I look for those helpers and it is comforting because they are always there.
So fear, in and of itself, is an appropriate response to many things we face in this life. Irrational fear, like being afraid of clowns, is not rational and you need to seek help if you work in or near a circus. The other option is just to stay away from clowns. It is OK to recognize fear and decipher if it is rational or irrational. Fear is a healthy emotion if it is rational.
I am not afraid of needles, hospitals or even surgeries. I am not afraid of pain, depression, anxiety attacks or Fibromyalgia Syndrome. I have made my peace with all that I physically have been diagnosed with, medications I must take, and an old life with specific dreams that will no longer be lived. I know my future is uncertain and that is a blessing and a curse, but I am not afraid of it. What am I afraid of? Snakes of any kind. If that is the only irrational fear I must deal with, then so be it. That won’t break me either.