Does Fear Define Us?

Scary Dinosaur

First, came Christianity. Dinosaurs, specifically the frilly one from Jurassic Park, came next. Ghosts, cannibals, germs, and social interaction followed in due course. The blue van in the forest, that man with the beard, the part of the street without lights, radiation from mobile phones, asthma caused by touching orange plants.. a whole plethora of bizarre and irrational fears overwhelmed me.

One day I might make a list. But I will start at the beginning, which, for all I can remember, is Christianity.

If you do not follow these rules, you will go to hell. No further discussion necessary. This Christian indoctrination from my school at age four terrified me. There were so many rules, that I couldn’t help but became constantly aware of the fact that I might break one accidently and be damned to an eternity spent in fire pits and burning wastelands as various mutated creatures stabbed and impaled me upon their crude pain devices. There was one particular picture that I still remember, in which a red beast impaled a naked human upon his trident and waved him overhead. From here, my fears escalated.

Dilophosaurus, the dinosaur with the frilly neck that spits black poison in Jurassic Park. After watching that (PG-13) film, every doorway or dark corridor hid that terrifying monster. At times I would be too scared to open my bedroom door to go to the bathroom in case I found it waiting for me. Then it was cannibals. I read a book that said how people of certain Pacific Isles had been know to eat one another. Unsure of quite where these Islands were or why the people living close to me would be any different, I lived in constant fear of being eaten. Fortunately it never happened. Ghosts and sharks grew together. I watched an episode of a TV show (Strange But True) where it showed a group of ghostly children dancing around a field at midnight as they sang nursery rhymes in chilling echoey voices. That, along with the image that followed; the grim reaper atop a bridge, imprinted themselves upon my mind. Similarly, I remember the fifteen minutes of Jaws that I once saw. I want never to watch that movie.

From the big fears grew the little ones that you couldn’t see. Germs were the most serious. At dinner time I would have to leave the table on multiple occasions to re-wash my hands. It might happen because I accidently touched the table as I was eating or maybe someone had just breathed in my general direction. Even turning the tap off after washing my hand was a constant battle because of the bacteria that might be hiding on the handle. I would have to use the inside of my shirt as a safety barrier between the filthy tap handle and my clean hands.

Life was a constant battle.

Cars, orange moss that gives you asthma, knives, aeroplanes, not being able to get to the toilet when it was needed, people who climbed though the windows at night, teachers, walking around objects in an opposite direction from the way that you came, touching the ground with only one hand, stepping on cracks and inciting bad luck. Fruit that wasn’t the right colour, fruit that might have insects in, insects, little pieces of dirt that looked liked eggs. Dirt itself. The possibility that a poisonous spider had crawled into the bananas and been transported all the way back to the supermarket where I helped my parents shop and when I put my hand in, it would leap out and bite me. Setting the house on fire, talking to people, not fitting in, standing in front of the microwave when it was opened so that the waves penetrated your body. Mobile phones and playing football. People laughing at me.

Fear is crippling. It limits you.

One day I looked at all these fears and I realised that they were stopping my enjoyment of life. I promised to overcome them. One by one I attempted to stopped worrying and in time, I stopped fearing things that I might have been more cautious of. As a result, I have broken my back and had stitches in my head amongst many other things. The injuries healed and I am OK. I realise now more than ever, that although fear is intended to keep you safe, it limits you.

The world can be a scary place. More than that, it can be a wonderful, invigorating place to fulfil all of your dreams. If you let it. You must not be afraid to live.

Ask yourself, what do you fear? How much does it limit you?

Are you, alive?

If you want to overcome your own fears, read my story, The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World, to learn how I manage my fears.

6 Comments

  • Nice post. People are as scared as they let themselves be. Not that a little caution, maybe even fear, isn’t a good thing, but it has to be managed and appropriate to the situation. In Cap Haitien recently (bus from Santo Domingo) I kept my antenna out–it’s a poor country and I was obviously an outsider. Did anything happen? No. Was I glad to have gone? Yes. Balance in everything.

    • Very true: fear keeps us safe, but it can also override us if we let it. We must be wary, but not dominated. I will be sharing a lot more on this topic soon and how I deal with it.

  • Fear has limited me way too much. It limited me to thinking that just because I went to the UK to study for two years, I was being exceedingly brave. It’s a brave choice to make on one’s own, but not so spectacular that you should go home and “fit into the mold” afterwards.

    I am realising more and more that this feeling of “is this it?” isn’t going to go away on its own… Neither do i want it to. I need to shed my fears and get out there.

    Thanks for inspiring me to do so, Jamie.

    • “I need to shed my fears and get out there.” Accepting that is sometimes the biggest step. Now you can do something about it. Best of luck.

  • Nice post! Love the line, “When someone asks me where I live, I say right here in this moment.” It takes tremendous courage to live this way. Good for you! It seems to me, in life, people are either moving deeper and deeper into comfort, limitation, and fear or they’re going in the opposite direction, in themselves and deeper levels of fearlessness.

    • It’s a scary decision at first, but once you commit, everything becomes easy and wonderful. I hope that more people can learn to make that jump, get out of their comfort zone, and start making themselves happier in life.

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