On Fear

I really don't want to go to school, there are bullies there.
(Image: canva.com)

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.

The litany against fear, from Frank Herbert’s Dune, above, is something I printed and kept in my desk drawer during the years I was being bullied in grade school.

I can’t really say it helped.

Some 50+ years later, my perspective has changed.

We all fear. We are all afraid. It’s the nature of the human condition.

It’s not that we “must not fear”, but that we must acknowledge fear and deal with it appropriately. In the litany’s case, we must face our fear.

As many have stated, courage is not the absence of fear, it’s being afraid and taking appropriate action, anyway. It’s knowing that doing the right thing can be hard, and doing it anyway, even if you’re afraid.

We must acknowledge fear because it’s telling us something important.

It might be something important about a situation, or something important about ourselves, but denying it helps no one. Understanding it does. Understanding is how we “permit it to pass over me and through me” and move on, having dealt with it appropriately.

I keep use the word “appropriately” on purpose.

Simply denying fear, acting on fear, or dealing with it randomly, isn’t enough. It needs to be the right action. An action based on thoughtful decision. All too often, fear elicits reaction, which is often anything but thoughtful.

That’s not to say we can’t take thoughtful action quickly, we can. But it needs to be considered action. It’s also not to say that the appropriate action isn’t sometimes to do nothing; it can be. Sometimes nothing is all we can do.

Sometimes, the appropriate action might be to run, to fight, or to do something entirely different.

Even today, I don’t know what choices I would have made differently in school. I was quite literally doing the best I could with what tools I had, even if what I had didn’t really help.

The bottom line is that fear isn’t something to be avoided or denied.

It’s something to be acknowledged and listened to.

And from listening, appropriate action can hopefully follow.