Friday, October 21, 2011


Well, it is almost Halloween, so the time seems appropriate to talk about our favorite emotion:
I mean, FEAR is your favorite emotion, isn’t it?
Funny, you would think that more people would admit to fear being the juiciest BFF of our emotional spectrum.  After all, wouldn’t you agree it is perhaps the emotion that we feel the most?
We can expect to feel sad, maybe what- a few times a week?  Real sadness, not like when your favorite team loses, which really is just disappointment masquerading as sadness, but that visceral belly dropping depression of true sadness.  Perhaps not even a few times a week, maybe less?  And we might revisit the feelings that we experienced during those first few moments of falling in love, and we look for reminders of those sweet expressions in our current moments, but really, how often do we actually LIVE that incredible free fall of surrender like we did the first time?  For reals?
We might feel anger, we hope not much more than a few times a week, right?  We don’t stay there long- anger (for most of us) has a short shelf life, and morphs readily into guilt, or regret, which if you look closely, is just another form of FEAR- the fear that something that we have done or not done may affect us later.
And what about happiness?  How many times a week can we expect super exhilarating mid blowing ecstatic happiness?  Okay, how about:  how many times a month?  A year?  Do we even entertain the notion that daily bouts of overwhelming bliss are available to us?  Probably not, unless of course we happen to be a porn star.
Yet, how many times do we feel fear?  Every day.  Little fears and big fears.  And don’t forget the expressions of fear: worry- which is fear that a future situation will turn out differently than what we expect, and again, regret.  It is not so much, “Oh, what have I done!”, but “Oh, how is this going to screw me up later!?!”
We love fear.  Admit it!  We’ll pay good money for it!  We’ll dive out of perfectly good airplanes, jump off of bridges tethered by rubber bands, hell, well pay to watch our fellow humans being eviscerated on the big screen.  We have a holiday devoted to it!  Which makes the most money, do you suppose?  Our holiday dedicated to love, or our holiday dedicated to fear?
What other emotion do we actively seek out?  We certainly don’t go searching for homeless people and road kill cats so we can get a fix of sadness, do we?  We turn the channel when the starving African kids appear.  Can you imagine going to the movies and spending 20 bucks for a big ass guilt trip?  I sure don’t see myself attending that premier, even if there is free popcorn.
So, we love to be afraid.  We love it!
Why then, do we deny our fear?
If you really look, we have a dysfunctional relationship with fear.  We think that fear is a defect of character, don’t we?  A weakness.  Something to get over, or move past.  We applaud people who “look fear in the eye”.  We convince our children to buck up and face what they fear is in the closet, and then encourage them to dress up and hide in their own mind, where the scary shit really lives.
Fear gets a bad rap.  Is it possible, that fear is really just a messenger?  That fear is simply like Toto, ripping the curtain away and revealing that the fake wizard behind it is really just an old pervert?
In other words, fear alerts us to the opportunity to discover whether the object of our fear is true, or not true. Real, or to borrow a cheesy self-help phrase: simply False Evidence Appearing Real.
Have you heard that tired story of the rope and the snake?  You come home in the evening and walk into a dimly lit room, and there in the corner you spy a coiled snake.  Fear!  Suddenly, your body reacts just as it supposed to when confronted by something that is potentially harmful.  Our normal reaction is, of course, to fight – “look fear in the eye” or to run like hell.   Either way, we don’t stop and investigate.  Is what I see true?  We just end up feeling a different emotion: embarassment. From either running away like a little girl, or for attacking a coiled rope with a double barreled shotgun.
Fear reminds us to investigate.  Certainly we don’t need to investigate when being confronted by a rabid bear, but the fact is we react psychologically and physiologically the same way when we are frozen in a state of fear about the outcome of an event or a worry about an imagined future as we do when we run into Mickey Rourke in a dark alley.  And do we stop and investigate?  How true is this; this that I fear?
Denying fear is like punt kicking Toto while he is reaching for the curtain, and then feeling all high and mighty about “looking fear in the eye”.
Denial of fear, in other words, is missing the opportunity that fear provides us to investigate the Truth in the objects of our fears.  Denial of fear is, perhaps, Vanity in the biblical sense:
“I have seen all the works done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, and a chasing after wind”.

What, right now, are you afraid of?   Is it true?

Here of course, is the seminal clip:


  1. Nice one! I'm afraid of the same things throughout life: change, the just manifests itself in different ways.

    I just did a book presentation (as an example of juvenile horror) for class on "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman, it is amazing and centers on the idea that life is scary, death is easy. It is a play on the jungle book and it is AMAZING. Also, if you like audio books, do that, his voice is Alan Rickman but better...

    I really like this H.P. Lovecraft quote too: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." (From "Supernatural Horror in Literature & Other Literary Essays")

  2. Oh, and Marty showed me your blog, looks great!