Fear is a powerful beast. But we can learn to ride it. (Justine Musk)
Fear is a universal emotion. It is likely that fear protected early man from extinction. Fear of danger creates a fight or flight state that would have saved an early human when he or she was faced with danger.
We begin to experience fear early in our lives. Babies become fearful when separated from the mother. Mothers also become fearful when they are not sure that their children are safe.
We are fearful of physical danger and many are made fearful through psychological trauma. Our fear can be based upon the past, the present, or even the future. We fear the known and the unknown.
Our fears are often tied to early experiences.
My husband, Saber, grew up in a small village in Chebaa, Lebanon. His family’s land included orchards where they grew walnuts, almonds, and fruits. At night, his older teenage brother stayed in a small shed to guard the land against thieves who might take their crop.
One night though his brother wanted to spend time with his friends, so he sent Saber, who was only seven, to stay in the shed and guard the land. Saber didn’t want to go.
His mother told his brother Saber was too young, but his brother said, “Let him be a man. He can do it.” His brother dismissed his mother’s complaints and forced Saber to go.
He carried a kerosene lamp with him as he walked down to the river to their land. There were no electric lights in the town or the orchards and the night was pitch black. All the way, as he walked to the land and the shed where he must stay the night, he was terribly frightened.
He saw jinns or spirits everywhere in the dark shadows. He feared he might encounter animals such as wolves or other predators, but his worst fear was of the jinns who came out at night according to local legends.
Every sound, every leaf that moved created a fresh wave of fear. The light that flickered from the lantern cast shadows all around him as he moved through the trees.
Finally, he arrived at the shed where he must wait for his brother to come and join him when he was finished having fun with his friends. All alone, he was afraid of the night and the unknown that lurked around him in the darkness.
He shook with fear and could not sleep. When the moon came out, it created more shadows and the eerie light coated everything making the trees look dangerous and otherworldly.
Saber’s brother did not come to him until daylight. When he arrived, Saber was free to go home. He ran all the way and when he reached his house and saw his mother, he burst into tears. He was finally released from his devastating fear.
I suppose my greatest fears are reserved for those I love. When my sons were teenagers, many were the nights I woke up in a cold sweat worried about where they were and whether they were okay. I also feared for my daughter’s safety and welfare nearly every day.
My fears led me to pray because I felt it was the only thing I could do. I could not be with my children every moment trying to keep them safe.
I had warned my children how to be safe, warned them about doing dangerous things, warned them about the dangers we all face. Still, I worried and feared for their safety.
My youngest son, Roger, has probably caused me some of my greatest fears. Even as a three-year-old, he was fearless. We lived in England at the time these terrifying events took place.
One day, we were walking back from Mother’s Day Out for 2- and 3-year olds. He was telling me that his teachers talked had taught about the Green Cross Code that day in class. I understood that they had told him how to cross streets safely.
We stopped on the sidewalk waiting for traffic to pass so we could cross the road. Suddenly, Roger let go of my hand and shouted, “Green Cross Code, Run Across the Road!” and started running across the road.
I was terrified as I watched the approach of a double-decker bus coming from the left and a car from the right. The bus missed him by mere inches, but I didn’t know if he was safe until the bus had passed and I could see Roger still running and a car slamming on its brakes and the driver waving his fist at my three-year-old daredevil.
How he avoided being run over is a miracle.
But this was not the only time he did something like that. A year later, the crossing lady at Trentside Elementary School told me that Roger had run across the road another time and she ran into the road to stop the traffic and prevent him from being hit.
His fearless escapades didn’t stop there. We lived in a two-story house. One day, my daughter came in the house to tell me that Roger had climbed onto the detached garage and then shimmied up the drainpipe until he got onto the roof.
I was terrified when I looked up and saw my four-year-old on the second story roof. I don’t remember how my husband got him down.
After we moved back to the United States, there was another instance of climbing on a roof. This time, it was both boys, Paul and Roger; they were 10 and 12 years old. I was preparing dinner in the kitchen of our apartment when there was a knock at the door.
When I opened the door, there was a policeman was standing there with my two sons. He proceeded to tell me that he had found them on the roof of the Pizza Hut across the street.
My many warnings of danger to them had fallen on deaf ears.
My husband Saber has given me many a fright as well. He has had two bypass surgeries during our marriage. The first was just two months after we were married. The second was three years ago when we lived in South Texas.
After the second surgery, I feared I might lose him if we didn’t move back to Dallas where he could get the cardiac rehab he needed and see his longtime cardiologist here. We were both frightened when he kept experiencing chest pains after his surgery!
We all experience many kinds of fears:
- fear of pain
- fear of death
- fear of success
- fear of failure
- fear of loneliness
- fear of never finding someone who will love us
- fear that we will lose our livelihoods or those we love, including our pets
- fear of violent personal attacks
- fear of the supernatural
- fear of natural disasters
- fear of random shootings
- fear of disease
- fear of accidents such as falls, car accidents, airplane crashes
- and much more.
However, not everyone experiences fear. According to the Popular Science website, in an article titled, “Researchers Scare the Crap Out of Patients Who Supposedly Can’t Feel Fear,” there are people who suffer from a disease called Urbach-Wiethe who lack the ability to feel fear.
When scientists conducted tests on patients with this disease, the participants did not exhibit fear in normal dangerous situations, but, when they were deprived of oxygen and in danger of suffocating, they experienced fear.
When they faced a physical internal danger of suffocation and felt fear. Yet external triggers for fear such as someone aiming a gun at them or snakes or horror films had not affected them.
Most of us are triggered by external danger, but some people continue to feel fear even after the danger is gone. It is as though the past fear is imprinted on their minds and it can return at any time or replay as a loop continuing to create fear.
Fear can occur due to dangers that occured in the past, that a present dangers, or possible future dangers. Fear can be a good thing that protects us from danger; but, for some, fear is paralyzing, especially when we experience fear in the absence of real danger.
What is your greatest fear? What are your greatest triggers of fear?