“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
–Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear”, Frank Herbert’s Dune series
Since I am still prey to negative emotions even today (for all my bravado over “turning a corner” and conquering depression), I thought it would be interesting to explore emotions in this blog, and consider what provokes them in me. Fear seems as good a place to start as any, since it was fear that originally drove me into that depressive phase in late 2011 and early 2012, but (assuming this blog lasts long enough, and I remember to write in it) I’ll also be exploring anger, hate and sadness, before turning to the more positive emotions somewhere in the future (or, perhaps I’ll alternate, depending on how I… feel?).
Anyway, what about fear? The sheer mortal terror that drives us on, or more precisely away. What makes me scared? Well, you already know of the darkness that clutched my heart back in January 2012, when I was truly afraid I’d left things too late and had no way out (even the prospect of moving back to Worthing with my mother didn’t make me feel any better), and made me so nauseous that I couldn’t even function, the result being that the result of my inability to find a new place to live was making it impossible for me to find a new place to live. That was the feeling of helplessness, of failure, of not being able to face life any more, and it went on for a long time; it felt like I would never not be scared again, and I’m just glad I got through that horrendous time alive!
There are other things that have made me afraid me during my life: as a child, I was terrified by various relatively innocuous children’s TV characters, particularly on a show called You & Me — not just a crow with a horrible raspy voice (which for some reason I thought was human-sized and coming to peck at me), but also Duncan the Dragon (right). However, my worst fear was Mr. Noseybonk from Jigsaw (actually host and mime artist Adrian Hedley in a mask, on sped-up film inserts), and I know this for one simple reason: I forgot about him until 2003, when I happened to glance at a description of the show on a TV nostalgia site, and the mere sight of his name caused the memories to come flooding back… well, take a look at this character and judge for yourself just how ridiculous my fear is:
My teenage years saw relatively little fear (but a lot of sadness and loneliness, which I’ll touch upon in another post), except for that day in October 1992 that the BBC showed a fake documentary called Ghostwatch, which was highly controversial in its time (much like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast in October 1938). This was the show in which a celebrity would be “spending the night in a haunted house”, only for things to go horribly wrong as it turned out the ghost was real… well, take a look at the following video (actually two disparate clips in which the ghost is seen fleetingly), and you’ll understand why I was afraid to open my eyes at night, in case I saw someone in front of the curtains…
(As an aside, the curtains scene also caused “female best friend” to scream and leap out of her chair when she watched it with me in 2007!)
As my teenage years ended, I discovered something curious: I actually wanted to watch horror films, even though their mere descriptions had scared me when kids at school had raved about them. I remember watching one of those interminable “top 100” shows about scary moments in TV and film, and when I saw the defibrillator scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing, I found myself thinking: I want to see that! In my 20s I saw the Hellraiser films (left), and found them to be good, but not scary; sadly, it seems I haven’t been able to find a truly terrifying film — even the original Japanese version of Ring doesn’t scare me any more, and “gorn” such as the Saw films, while (ahem) enjoyable, don’t move me in that way. Indeed, I’d already begun overcoming my fear of films (and of swearing!) by watching The Terminator, Aliens and other 18-rated (but probably edited) films on TV as a teenager. It actually seems to be films like Deep Impact, with large populations in danger of annihilation, that scare me (I remember being horrified by Meteor when I was a nipper, especially the bit when Hong Kong gets flooded)…
In my adult years, the things that have scared me have been video games, like the aforementioned Amnesia: The Dark Descent, as well as Dead Space, F.E.A.R. (appropriately enough), Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (especially since you have no weapons for the first part of the game) and the Thief games (yes, even the third one). Indeed, it was the latter series which one day brought me to an epiphany about my own mortality: as I was walking home, it occurred to me that one day I wouldn’t be around to play Thief ever again, and that there would thus be a “last time” in my life that I ever play it. This, more than anything else, made me realise that we have only a limited time in this world, and one day we go into the undiscovered country, which (if we’re lucky) might be the oblivion of non-existence, or perhaps eternal torment for the sin of not believing in the right gods. But don’t worry, I bury such feelings these days and don’t let them worry me — if you’re too afraid to live, you’re already as good as dead!
Today, even though I keep doing it, climbing (no, I won’t stop going on about it) scares the hell out of me — but I must face my anxiety in order to conquer it. It has to be said, I’m afraid of heights when I’m in a precarious place, no matter how well I know intellectually that I’m safely tied in and won’t fall more than a couple of feet, but one day I shall overcome it to the point where I no longer need to stretch my arm up to grab a handhold, any handhold, just to feel safe. Besides, being afraid of falling in a climbing centre is much better than my irrational fear of open skies, which seems to go back to a childhood nightmare about “falling off the world” — this makes it a little difficult to go stargazing, and indeed I’m a bit worried about how I’ll feel camping in the great outdoors in May, so I’d better work on overcoming my phobia…
No, I won’t be getting therapy regarding my fear of spiders, because that’s entirely rational and normal. Not being afraid of spiders is a sign of social deviancy, which means you’re a terrorist!
Finally, there are two occasions I’ve felt in genuine mortal terror for my life, but fortunately I wasn’t in any actual danger on either occasion (or at least I hope not). The first was on holiday in Turkey with my friends: during a boat tour around the bay at Marmaris, they cajoled me into jumping off the side, but when I did so, at the last moment I slipped and so fell rather than jumped, slowly turning in midair. As everyone watching groaned in dismay, I felt a certain perverse satisfaction: it’d just serve you right if I died, after you nagged me to jump! I survived, naturally, but when I clambered back aboard the boat, the adrenaline rush meant my legs didn’t work for some time…
The second case of mortal terror was during my four-week training course at The Castle climbing centre. We had the “chance” to do a free abseil down the tower — hanging free inside, not rappelling down a wall and going “hut-hut-hut!” — and, perhaps out of fear of being the only one not to do it (and thus letting down our very nice instructor, who had never had someone back out before), I went through with it. However, we’d been warned not to get our hands caught in the rope bracket, because the instructor would have to tie us off and spend ages getting us free… but I couldn’t seem to get the belaying right, and so I was faced with a choice: hold onto the rope tightly to stop myself going down, or let the rope go through my hands and give me friction burn! Once again the adrenaline filled my veins (my right foot kept quivering, I recall), but I made it down, even though once again my legs were useless!
So there we are: the things that have scared me during my life. Talking about these things puts them in perspective; I hope someone out there is reading this and finding it useful (for something other than building a case to have me committed), because the worst thing, the most terrifying of all, is to feel that you’re alone.