Fear Factor — Part III

     There were several fear projects that impacted me. I found myself hurting with the people who were really putting themselves and their deep fears out for all to see, wanting to offer some kind of consolation and tell people that, in their pain and in their imperfections, they are enough. We all have this insane comparison chart where we scrutinize every flaw in ourselves and measure it against the nice shiny package that others present. We’re all flawed. We all try to present our best selves. Comparing our flaws to what we assume is perfection will only result in deeper feelings of self-doubt. Repeat it with me, everyone, “I am enough. I am enough. I AM ENOUGH.” Of course there’s always room for improvement — but self-improvement, not improvement based on the measuring stick of the perceived perfection of someone else.  All that aside, there were three fear projects that really impacted me: Leigh Field’s, Samantha George’s and Steve Malander’s. 

Leigh’s was about her fear of  — well, basically being financially ruined by a mistake made as a 22-year old. I am the primary money handler in our household and my husband and I are both full-time students living on the GI Bill and student loans — so fear of financial ruin is something I deal with on a regular basis. I completely felt her pain  at the overwhelming-ness of it all. I felt overwhelmed for her, and with her.

Samantha’s was about something that I think everyone can relate to on some level — the fear of relationships. Although her fear sounds like it came from a darker place in her childhood, I think we can all empathize with liking someone and lacking strength to do something about it. As a teen and young adult, my fears of relationships sounded a lot like Samantha’s. We’ve all been there, Samantha, in some way or another. You’re not alone.

Steve’s project is what I’m going to spend the rest of this post on, and here’s why. My husband is in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq from December 2004 to March 2006. Our son was 3, turning 4. I stopped watching the news in January of 2005.  I couldn’t handle it anymore. Not only were there daily updates on wartime casualties, but the general horrible nature of humanity was broadcast and sensationalized three times a day and “don’t miss our breaking story at 11!” I heard about the war my husband was fighting, but also the war that was going on in our own country, and in my own neighborhood. Murders, suicides, abuse, fires, robberies, hate. It was one thing to worry about my husband’s safety, but watching the news while he was away gave me a kind of sick feeling in my stomach that the world was closing in with all its misery and I was ill-equipped to fight it on my own. A new kind of fear enveloped me. Even without watching the news, I couldn’t sleep at night for fear that someone was going to break in and rape/rob/kill me and then harm my son in some way. And I wouldn’t be able to protect him.

So Steve’s project didn’t bother me all that much until he showed the clips of people “playing” the Knockout game. This kind of stuff is why I stopped watching the news. I can’t stomach watching people do horrible things to each other, and I really don’t need more reasons to be afraid. I would rather play ostrich and put my head in the sand than face the reality of the terrible things going on in the world. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose. That evening when I walked to my car, in the dark at 8pm, all I could think about was someone running up and knocking me out with one hit. For “fun”.

The fears I showcased in my project are both shallow and deep. The fear of failure dictates many of my actions. The fear of natural bodies of water dictates my leisure activities. But Steve’s “Knockout” game clip brought to surface another fear in me: the fear of living, the fear of dying. But all of these fears boil down to control. I can’t control what’s in a lake or ocean and I can’t control my ability to see what might be lurking there. I can’t control the outcome of a situation, and therefore can’t guarantee or control my own failure or success. I can’t control the actions of others. This fear of not being in control is the underlying cause of all of my fears, and perhaps is root of all fear. We fear what we cannot control.

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