The Incarnations of Joe series has many sub themes. Among them is the question of what is the most powerful of emotions? In the story some characters believe people are controlled by hope, by shame, by love, and some believe that fear trumps all other feelings. Fear isn't just about dark rooms, the forest, an old house or other places. Fear comes in truly limitless forms. The doctor, heights, public speaking, it's a very personal list for us all. To understand fear we need to look beyond our list of things we are afraid of, we need look at how fear controls our daily lives.
Forget about the big things, the crazy, and the silly things. Forget the monster under the bed, and falling off a cliff, or any other obscure and unlikely event. How does fear control your daily decisions, and impact your life? People who know me see me as someone without much fear. I've been into many of the more dangerous sports, I do public speaking, and I'm generally willing to go first when a situation calls for a volunteer. The truth is I have just as many, possibly more fears than most. I'm afraid of bees, failure, and judgment. Often my actions while they seem fearless, are driven by the greater fear of inaction. How will I be judged if I don't, how will I feel if I can't? We tend to allow ourselves to be controlled by staying away from things that give us fear. Fear isn't always something that sends you into a shivering mess. Anxiety is perhaps the worst effect of fear. Anxiety just pulls on your heart making it struggle to beat, it closes your lungs making it harder to breath, and it takes away your will to move forward. Maybe you don't like how you look in a swim suit, so you deny yourself the beach. Perhaps you don't like heights, so you never learn to ski. A fear of snakes might keep you from enjoying the sights and smells of nature. Fear shapes us in more ways than we recognize.
Just as fear consumes, and cripples some people, others are addicted to it. It's very easy to just discard these people as "having a death wish", or as "crazy", or "no regard for their personal well being". I've known enough of these people that seem to live without fear to gain some understanding, and I think we might all improve our lives if we understand them a bit better. The first thing is we all have different fears. Some things that scare us, just don't bother others. Second skill and experience can give people a sense of confidence that removes fear. I think about people I know who are into bike racing, or snowboarding. Sure if you hit that jump on your first day you'd be terrified, but with time, knowledge and skill; fear is dulled almost like medicine acting against a headache. When I try to really get to the root of things, to understand it in a way that is productive, I am reminded of a story I heard many years ago.
I went to school and hung out a bit with an amazing person named Kale Stephens. Kale went on to become a pro snowboarder, and is now referred to as a "snowboarding legend". I was not present for the events, so can't confirm the details, but the story really made me think a little differently about why some people seem to have no fear, and others seem bound by it. As the story was told to me Kale had returned home to visit some friends, and was drinking red wine while the group talked. Kale somehow spilled some wine on what appeared to be a new white shirt. The jaws of those around dropped, and everyone but Kale thought "Oh darn, you just ruined your new shirt with a stain". Kale looked for just a second or two, then proceeded to dump wine over his entire shirt. Most people questioned what was Kale thinking? But a few understood, and the reason explains the difference between those who suffer from fear, and those who do not. Kale never looks back. He took a brief moment to reflect on the time he and his white shirt had together, then he moved on by making a new (wine stain colored) shirt. He didn't think about the money, what he was going to change into, how he could get the stain out, where he could get another. He just accepted that what was done, was done, and he moved on without regret, or remorse.
Everything that has happened to you up until this moment is stored in your mind. Sometimes those memories of bad experiences tell you to stop. Fear is like an evil little voice telling us only the negative things that might happen to us. People like Kale Stephens are not "crazy" or "reckless". They are people with the knowledge that no matter the consequence they will be able to move on. They don't believe their actions will always bring the desired result, but they have a willingness to find out the result, and accept either the price, or the reward. The past should not determine our future. What we have experienced should teach us, and shape us, but not control us. If you want to defeat your fear you need to have the ability to accept what has happened, and move on without regret. When you can do this, not only will you be free from your negative past, you will be free to explore an entirely new future.
The Blog of Timothy Weatherall
Timothy Weatherall is a fiction fantasy writer from Ontario, Canada.
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