F is for Fear

FI confess! I have many fears: fear of death; fear of illness; fear of embarrassing myself; fear of letting people down; fear of heights; fear of spiders; fear of being stupid; fear of intimacy; fear of ending up alone; fear of the dark; fear of food poisoning; fear of ridicule; fear of failing….

They’re all irrational, and many are contradictory. That’s the nature of fear. It fucks with you. It makes you hesitate. It makes you timid. It compels you to make conservative choices — not great for a creative artist. (Not great for an entrepreneur, either.)

Fear is everywhere. It poisons our souls. It paralyzes us. It brings out the worst in us.

Fear corrupts our culture.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
—Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

Fear poisons our politics.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

Fear is something we try to laugh off.

Coward, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Facing fear can be daunting in itself, but is there any other way?

A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

I may be afraid to face my fears, but I’m even more afraid to not face my fear. I’m afraid of a life governed and controlled — even destroyed — by fear. This fear trumps all others.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
—Theodore Roosevelt, Strenuous Life

So how do you defeat fear? Maybe it’s through counting your blessings? Or focusing on what’s real and what’s only imagined? Maybe it’s through a mantra or litany?

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
—Frank Herbert, Dune: The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

I do a little bit of all of that. Yet defeating fear is not an accomplishment. It’s a practice. I work to defeat my fears every day.

My fear of heights, though, I’ll leave be. I can live with one.