Things that go bump in the night just don’t cut it anymore. Or do they?
Despite the glorification (and perhaps oversaturation) of vampires, werewolves, witches, the undead, disasters and post-apocalyptic societies, we’re still pretty easy to scare. The fight-or-flight survival instinct is hardwired into us to ensure we avoid danger. Some people take advantage of that by spreading ridiculous rumors via the internet. (If you ever get an email about tampons made of asbestos or AIDS-infected needles being slipped into return coin slots, make sure you check it out on Snopes.com.) Others try to profit by instilling new fears in us--marketing is very good at this. And still others make a living trying to scare us. Just look at all the haunted houses that pop up in October...and see how many people pay to go in!
Fear is a universal emotion we all experience in different forms. Some fears are so extreme, people will literally run screaming from them. And it’s not always as simple as being afraid of the dark. Phobias are nothing to laugh at, and can keep some people trapped by fear.
There are many things we’re—legitimately or not—terrified of. We have personal fears of abandonment, failure, rejection, losing control and getting old; and there are mundane ones such as fear that you’ll get into an accident, get sick, lose your job or won’t make next month’s rent. Sometimes, these can be almost as detrimental as phobias, keeping us from achieving our greatest potential.
Some of the most common fears include snakes, spiders, rats and creepy crawlies. I even know people who are terrified of Canadian geese. I myself have a great aversion to centipedes (horrifying creepy-crawlie alert on that link!).
And then there are those odd associative fears. Things that, most likely as children, we were exposed to and have bad memories of. For instance, I had onion rings for the first time at age six, and that same afternoon I came down with the stomach flu. It lasted more than two weeks. It was so bad that, to this day, I cannot help but pause before eating an onion ring.
As writers, we often give our characters some fear they must face in order to grow or progress; just think of Indiana Jones trapped in the pit of snakes, or Harry Potter facing the Dementors. But in real life, we often shy from those things we most fear, mostly likely because an aversion to mice, say, is not interfering with our lives as much as a Dementor might...
When we do conquer fear, however, it can be one of the greatest feelings in the world. I, for one, know my life is richer for eating onion rings now that I’ve finally gotten over them...twenty years later....
What are your fears? Do you think they’re valid? How would you overcome them if you had to?
Have a safe and happy Halloween!