Once each year we take the scariest characters we know, dress up as them (or as pumpkins, but that’s another story), and make fear into funny. We look the scary things in the eye and expose them by surrounding ourselves with whatever paraphernalia we can find that represents scariness. We do this together with our friends in a safe environment that extinguishes any possibility of actual, heart-stopping fear. All things scary are there, in front of us and among us, exposed, revealed, busted. Dancing with a drunk killer from Scream makes his fearsome qualities shrink significantly. This silly celebration actually holds in it quite a remarkable message, and I’m very surprised I’m saying this, because I’ve always regarded Halloween as something very empty-headed.
Thinking so profoundly about Halloween made me ponder another kind of fear, but a surprisingly similar one. Not the jolly kind mentioned above, that is with us only on this special occasion every autumn when darkness begins to wrap up the final fragments of summer and prepare its journey through winter. Not the kind we celebrate, but the kind that lurks behind our backs whatever the season, that prevents us from doing all sorts of things. The kind that manifests as a silent voice inside us telling us to stay put, to keep going on as usual, to be in the familiar. This fear likes its warm, comfortable bubble with clear, safe boundaries and no threat of anything new being introduced. It likes to hide deep inside of us, and what it fears the most is being revealed and exposed to daylight.
I find that this fear is not all together unwelcome, because it has actually got a lot in common with the Halloween type of scary, in the way it can be dealt with. If you sit still for a moment and really listen to what this other fear has to say, you might see it begin to shrink, become little, and react like the fear it represents.You might see it take shape, show you its origins. Maybe you even notice how, since you are perceiving this emotion, it cannot be you, and you can instead separate yourself from it. If you can look at a feeling from outside of the feeling itself, it means that you must be something else, because what you are you cannot look at from another point of view, the point of view is you. Fear is not you, you only feel it.
Seeing fear for what it is, an emotion that is as scared as its name says, feels like a whole new world is introduced. It might hurt and it probably will, because you are possibly breaking something that you built forever ago. You open doors that have been closed since the beginning of your memory, and it might be painful to see what’s on the other side. More fears might appear as you begin peeling the layers. This requires a certain effort, because the fear is constantly pulling you towards the old, being afraid of the new (remember, it likes its bubble). It will use all possible means of manipulation to keep you from going any further.
However, fear is never alone; it always holds in it an opportunity. It’s almost as if fear is there to tell us where to go next, it shows us a direction. Paradoxically, what we fear the most is probably where we need to go the most. Sometimes we hide in our fears, and we do it so well we’re not even aware of being afraid. Fear has become us, become our life. But if at this point we catch it, expose it, and look it deep in the eye, we have the chance of turning everything around.
Imagine having a secret dream that you even forgot yourself because you built such strong walls to hide it. If you take the smallest glimpse of your dream, you will quickly hear a voice (this is fear talking) telling you how your dream is ridiculous, you’re naïve and silly thinking you could succeed, you’re much better off continuing your old life just the way it was, and how you should forget about the dream all together before failure hurts you. Well, this is the opportunity. Ask the fear what its motives are and you will see how it shrinks before your eyes. Because its motives are simply: fear. Tell the fear you appreciate the help, but you think you can go on by yourself. The result is a realisation of freedom, an understanding that nothing matters. That even though the fear exists it doesn’t prevent you from doing anything you desire.
Feel the fear and do it anyway is a cliché by now, but that’s precisely how we become strong and responsible for our own lives. In fear, our opinions are based on that same emotion, our actions, words, and lack of actions all share the same source. But the feeling of doing something in spite of fear is indeed the complete opposite of a frightful and dull existence. The more we expose our fears, the more of them we find, the more freedom we gain, and the stronger we become.
Fear and dare go well together. When you feel a fear, dare it and it shrinks to insignificance and becomes a friend, just like all things scary on Halloween.