Vicariously, reading is an excellent opportunity to learn more about fear. In the science fiction best seller Dune by Frank Herbert, the reader comes across a scene in which the main character is tested with an event which is designed to produce intense fear. In order to pass this test the character recites a prayer of sorts, “The Litany Against Fear”.
Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. If we did not feel it, we would not know to protect ourselves from legitimate threats. Too often we fear situations that are in no way life or death and thus do not act when there is no reason. Traumas, bad experiences and even the thought of a bad experience can trigger a fear response that causes us to hold back and not more forward with our lives. Fear is a mind killer which causes our brains to narrow in focus and in the extreme, even shut down when we are faced with a truly dangerous situation. Emergency First Responders go through intense training and conditioning in order to prepare for this. Remember the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” in which the character “Upham” freezes on the stairwell. This is a normal experience, not cowardice.
The interesting thing is that perceived fear may have the same effects as fear based on real danger. These fears are characterized by their irrational nature. In fact anxiety and depression are characterized by common irrational thoughts and distortions, which often boil down to unrealistic fears. It is by facing our fears and experiencing the events that we have been avoiding that we discover that they are irrational and that they will disappear as we face them. As we take action and the fears dissipate like morning fog being burned off by the sun, we discover that we are capable, independent and resilient.
P.S. Read a book, any book. Learn vicariously!
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