Facing your fears can sometimes be just as frightening
When I was little, I was scared silly of the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.” I didn’t even want to hear her, much less see her. She was absolutely terrifying.
Her intro smoke would appear and I would bolt from the room. Mom would call me back in when she’d left the screen. It was years before I saw the flying monkeys or discovered how Dorothy ended the old hag. It wasn’t until third grade that I finally saw the movie from beginning to end. We watched it in class, and there was no way for me to nonchalantly run out of the room each time she appeared. There’s a chance I might have hidden my eyes the first time but I was watching by the end.
I had other fears, too. Heights were not my friend. Spiders were of the devil and needed to be squashed. I was never quite sure what it was that went bump in the dark, but I wanted to make sure I saw it coming. I slept with a night light for more years than I’ll admit. My first night without was a tough one to get through.
As I grew older, my fears evolved. While some went away, new ones crept out of nowhere to envelop me. Spiders and I have had a lifelong disconnect, but clowns never bothered me when I was little. Now that I’m older, though, I realize how truly creepy those painted smiles are. No one is that happy all the time.
A co-worker got pretty adamant about her hatred of clowns. Another asked her if she hadn’t grown out of the fear, and she said no. At first, I thought it was a strange question to ask because it seemed pretty presumptuous. But it was probably pretty fair, considering things that might frighten us as children could seem as harmless as a feather when we’re adults.
I asked some friends what scares them and a lot of the answers didn’t surprise me. Several mentioned pests like spiders, snakes or bees. Others mentioned things like drowning, planes crashing, losing body parts and even politics.
Some answers went deeper, though. They weren’t tangible or the plot of a scary movie. They were real and the stuff that can truly make a heart race. One friend finds ignorance and hatred terrifying. Some friends’ fear revolved around their families, whether it be someone hurting them, not being able to take care of them or losing a loved one. Some worried about health, while others’ fears were purely psychological. They were concerned about not living up to their potential, being mediocre or “dying without trying,” as one person put it.
Fear itself is a terrifying thing. The object of said fear could be small or large, tangible or all in our heads but it can completely cripple us sometimes.
My own phobias might not include the Wicked Witch or the dark, but I still have plenty. I dislike bridges and elevators, and I’ll still call someone for help when I see a large spider. But some go deeper.
Since my grandmother died in January, I’ve become a bit obsessed with and terrified of death. I know she’s in a better place, and we’re all bound for something beyond this plane, but it’s the fact that someone can be ripped from us so easily. I’ve always had abandonment issues, and it seems her death quadrupled them. Add in the fact that, though I realize she led a long and happy life, I know that I could die without having ever really accomplished anything.
And then there’s the pod people. Blame some movie I watched as a kid, but I’ve had a fear of everyone I know being replaced by pod people. As I tried to explain the fear to BFG at lunch, he looked at me as if I’d grown antennae and turned green.
Fears can be rational or they can be the silliest thing you’ve heard in a while. For each person, it’s different. As long as we don’t let the fear control us, we’ll be all right in the end. Right?
Amanda Greever is assistant managing editor at The Daily Times. She writes a weekly column in the Sunday Life section. She can be reached at 981-1161 or (firstname.lastname@example.org) Follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com _editor.