With the Halloween season only a week or so behind us, I’m hoping it’s not too late to talk about the worst four-letter F word there is when it comes to our success -- FEAR.
You may not believe it, but humanity is obsessed with fear. We love it even if we don’t realize it. As a fan of Halloween and horror films, it’s fascinating to me that we’ve created an entire industry behind the emotion. Not only that, but politicians use it to push their agendas, television producers use it to keep us glued to our idiot boxes and wellness “gurus” use it to sell us their latest books and/or cleanse kits and/or pyramid scheme blocks.
They do it because it works. Fear controls our lives to the point where we consult our fears before our skills when it comes to pursuing our goals. We may have lofty dreams but they’re frequently crushed when we begin thinking about all the bad things that could happen to us. We step back from our progress because we’re afraid of failing or afraid of humiliation. It’s the same way politicians make us fear the dystopian future that’s inevitable if we vote for the “other.” It’s just like our local news stations making us believe the world is more violent and evil than ever before. And it’s just like Johnny Crunchalot convincing us to give up all carbs in an attempt to “rebalance” our hormones or immune systems.
Fear is one of the easiest ways to control the human population. The classic “fight or flight” psychological response we have continuously evolved is a surefire indicator that fear has always controlled our reactions and responses to certain stimuli. The weird thing, though, is that fear controls us by making us suspicious of things that may happen.
Notice I said what may happen … not what is actually happening.
Taking a big step outside of the box or setting a new goal no matter how ambitious or banal it may be requires guts because the very pursuit of it -- the very action of taking a risk -- means facing whatever might happen and acting despite it. Succumbing to fear means allowing an abstract concept to have a real effect on our very tangible reality.
The same thing happened when I was a child after my parents rented the 1990 Clive Barker film Nightbreed. The film follows mental patient Aaron as he seeks refuge among a cohort of outcast monsters in a cemetery. These monsters included Peloquin with his fleshless appearance and attached dreadlocks, Kinski with his crescent-moon-shaped head and Lude who basically looks like a coal-black Satan. For weeks after watching the film I couldn’t close my eyes in my dark bedroom at night. I knocked on my parents’ door almost nightly hoping to find some comfort and reassurance that these creatures didn’t exist.
And that’s the thing -- they didn’t exist. There was no Peloquin, Kinski or Lude. There was merely Oliver Parker (who had a role on the horrifying series Matlock), Nicholas Vince (a b-movie staple) and Vincent King who may have actually been the evil ashy devil because it’s the only role he ever played. They were just people, no more evil than little kid me (except, again, Vincent King).
We can easily say that I was just a child, that my ignorance and inability to differentiate between fiction and reality was skewed. But we, as adults, are doing the same thing every time we avoid certain situations due to uncertainty of what may happen. The fear of failing, falling or making a fool of ourselves comes from the same place that the fear of bloody dreadlock guys and moon-faced men in the graveyard came from for me as a kid.
Fear of what may be, not fear of what actually is.
What a concept.
The next time you find yourself hesitating to take a leap toward your goals because of any kind of fear, ask yourself if the threat is real, or merely an abstract possibility.
Take that chance.
Start that business.
Ask that hottie out.
Begin that program.
We must never let fiction freak us out.