They Call it Fear

First there was the story I read online about how the Northwest, including Portland, could expect a Violator3_black_white_686057_l major earthquake of the sort that just decimated Chile sometime in the next 50 years.   I hate earthquakes.  I expect the earth beneath my feet to stay steady, thank you very much.

Then I watched a little bit of the local Fox News.  I never watch television news, but it was on after American Idol, and the TV didn't get turned off fast enough for me not to see the story about the guy who got slashed up by a trio of men who invaded his backyard in the early morning hours.  (The victim was outside having a smoke.)  This wouldn't have been so bad, except it happened fairly close to my house.

Before I knew it, I was getting re-acquainted with my old friend, fear. 

Now this kind of fear is a little different than being scared of stuff.

This is the kind of fear that most often is underlying, sometimes vague, beneath-the-surface misery.  It is not specific enough to battle.  There's no real way for me to put myself face to face with earthquakes, for instance.  And realistically, I'm not going to put myself face to face with a slasher.

No, this kind of fear is insidious.  It is the kind that terrorism is designed to instill.  It is the kind that seeps throughout every cell in our body, a nameless, creeping dread that if left unchecked, starts to subtlety control thoughts and actions.  And eventually it will manifest itself in my writing.

It won't be obvious how it's manifesting, either.  Instead, it'll take the form of procrastination or suddenly deciding not to move forward on a project or convincing myself its okay if I never write another novel. Because this kind of fear is leech-like, attaching itself to your bad habits and insecurities and magnifying them.  This kind of fear feeds on uncertainty and indecision. And before you know it, you're telling yourself you never wanted to be a writer, really, anyway.

So, how to battle such a sneaky enemy?  Here are some tips:

Acknowledge it.  The more you do this, the easier it will be to see.  Took me awhile, but last night after I'd soaked myself in a bath of fear, I realized what was going on.  Sometimes acknowledging is half the battle.

Dance with it.  Or wrestle it, or punch it in the face.  Argue with it, yell at it, tell it to go away.  Because this fear is stealthy and cunning, it doesn't like being overtly dealt with and chances are doing just that will keep it at bay.

Protect yourself from it.  Stay away from the things that cause it in the first place.  I usually don't watch television news, for instance.  I won't read books or see movies that have animals in them because I worry about the animals the entire time, even if there's a happy ending.  And because I take on things far too easily, I don't see war movies and I refuse to read anything written by Cormac McCarthy.

De-stress.  Meditate, do yoga or Qi Gong, find yourself a good relaxation CD (my current favorite, since I'm in the middle of a wonderful hypnotism program) or do whatever it is that rids you of stress.  Fear feeds on nerves, anxiety and stress, so it is important to deal with it regularly.

Write.  It always comes back to this for me.  Writing regularly is the best revenge against everything, including fear.  So write often, every day if you can, whether you are writing on a project you're passionate about or in your journal.  

And let me know what your fear-busters are, would you?  We can all use some help in banishing fear.

Photo by Violator3, used under a Creative Commons 2.5 license. 

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10 Comments on "They Call it Fear"

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Kory Wells
Guest

Charlotte, I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who is easily over-stimulated by the news, violent movies, etc. I won’t watch a movie if it’s rated R for violence – I know it’s way too much for my system! Thanks for speaking out about an affliction I suspect many of us sensitive writer-types have! 😉

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Kory, I figured I wasn’t the only one out there with this problem! Sometimes a glance at a headline or one portion of a scene will upset me for hours.

Kathleen McDade
Guest

I agree with you about Cormac McCarthy! I read one book, The Road, and still wish I could erase it from my mind.

Patty - Why Not Start Now?
Guest

I’m with you on this Charlotte. The media has perfected its use of this kind of fear, and I haven’t watched television news in years. Was it always this way? I don’t think so. I used to love reading newspapers. Now, of course, they’re just shadows of their former selves, content-wise. But even then I loved them. Yesterday, though, I stopped my 20-year subscription to the Sacramento Bee. It just got too dark for me.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Patty, I feel so for journalists with traditional print media these days. I’m a long-time subscriber of the Oregonian, and I used to love to linger over breakfast and read it…but there’s very little to read anymore and half the time I’m shielding my eyes from a headline about animal abuse or avoiding an article about war. So I’ll probably be following suit soon.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Kathleen, I tried to read The Road and set it aside after just a few pages. I knew I couldn’t do it. My son loves McCarthy and goes on and on about how great he is but I just won’t read him, too dark and too violent.

rebecca
Guest

This article hit home in a lot of ways. Thanks for sharing ways to overcome these obstacles.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Glad it was helpful, Rebecca!

Dani H
Guest
Wow! What a powerful post, Charlotte. FEAR in capital letters, on the most primal level. And before 911, not nearly so wide-spread in this country, don’t you think? I record the national news, but fast forward through everything that doesn’t look like information I need (ie: food recalls) and the occasional warm & fuzzy segment. Some nights that means I don’t watch any of it. My insomnia probably has it’s roots in the night over 15 years ago when I awoke to my daughter’s screams ~ home from college for the summer, she woke up to a man standing three… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Oh my God, Dani, that is a terrifying story and I can see how it would lead to insomnia. I agree–having something happen to a child is the ultimate horror. I remember when my son got lost when he was little I thought I myself was going to die…

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