Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Exploring Fear

What is it that makes us afraid? Where does fear come from? - Note to self, I do realize how incredibly abstract and pretentious this is going to be. But, it's been on my mind.

Not of the petty things, like being fearful of forgetting a tube of lip balm or being late for an important appointment. I mean the big stuff. The sort of fears that make your heart race in broad daylight amongst your closest friends. I mean the sort of fear that doesn't go away with a glass of whiskey, a good book, or both. I mean the stuff that ghastly fears that we can only ignore if we're lucky.

I don't understand where fear even comes from. Why is it natural to be fearful? If we weren't taught to understand fear as a paralyzing force, would we do it? Fear seems like more of the response we have to our surroundings, and not something inherent within us. If fear is a reaction, then is it really that "natural", as if the world activates fear hidden within us? Is what we're afraid of coded into our biology? If it is, much of what we're fearful of must be social/contextual...it seems common that people are fearful if they have a rough experience doing something or if someone else tells them it's scary. For example, I was afraid of heights for a long time, I suspect because my mother is afraid of heights and roped me along with her. After riding a roller coaster, I realized the fear was only in my head.

What I am realizing is that fear doesn't seem to be that different between people. At it's root, I think we're all afraid of the same things. Things outside us that hurt, or things within us that hurt. That we'll be alone or of the unknown. What fear seems to come down are things that put us farther way from what we want, love and need and closer to realities that are dangerous, uncertain or unexpected. Fear, I think, is that state of mind where we believe our desired reality and our actual reality can't align. It's seeing a world we would've never wanted to imagine coming true. Which is why it makes sense that someone who fears lonliness and someone who fears getting close to others can relate. For each of those people, that's a scary place to be.

But that leaves me optimistic that fear can be conquered. Because, if it's a matter of misalignment, we can work to make those worlds co-exist. We can fight like hell to make it so that what we dream and what we are have a shot at being the same. At the very least, we can build bridges between misaligned realities so we can cope.

Instead of naming our blessings, I think naming our fears is the best first step we can take to conquer our fears because it identifies the misalignment. By naming our fears we can see exactly how different our desired reality and our actual realities are and then start bringing them together.

Loneliness is mine, and death by extension. A world alone is one that I would never want to live in. I'm damn sure that fear isn't natural, I know exactly where it comes from.

But, even if I understand fear more clearly now, this wishy-washy idea of "alignment" isn't any easier. But luckily, we're human. I'm convinced that the human spirit is strong enough to do almost anything. In fact, when the human spirit triumphs, it makes me feel fearless. Even if only for a quickly passing moment.