The pause between the thought and the act is where fear resides. Sometimes, it is so tiny, you can bully it away with words of wisdom but it lurks in corners waiting to leap out and scream, ‘Gotcha!’ Some fears are ginormous monsters that sit heavily on your heart, their grubby paws stealing handfuls of happiness. There is probably no person who exists without fear.
A month ago, I had gone to a carnival. The largest screams came from a ride called ‘Speed’ . Here, a large, vertical beam had seats attached on either end. The promised thrill was that it would spin 360 degrees on a fulcrum, at a height of 520-feet, carrying its petrified passengers up and down to complete the circle of hell. My partner wanted to try it and I tagged along hushing my quaking bones.
We sat down on the seat and an automated capsule lowered itself onto our torso. We were completely covered except for two holes from which our arms dangled. We looked like an egg with stick figure hands. The protective capsule, once fitted, was two inches away from my nose.
My claustrophobia kicked in and kicked out the tiny bit of bravery I was clutching onto. I began screaming. The gypsy who was manning the show was completely unperturbed by the howling banshee on his watch. He pressed a lever, the ride paused, the capsule lifted and I ran towards freedom. My partner on hearing my screams got off that ride too. My fear had fuelled his.
We all walk this earth with different kinds of phobias and they are all prettily named: Anuptaphobia - the dread of being or remaining single; Xanthophobia - the fear of the colour yellow, where the sun, daffodils or a laddoo terrifies you; Nomophobia - the fear of being without a mobile network. The list is as endless as the nightmares that lurk within.
This is hardly surprising for all our life we are taught things through fear. ‘Don’t step out at night, you will be harmed.’ ‘Never speak to strangers.’ ‘Study now or you will regret it when you get older’ ‘Don’t wait too long to get married, you will be the last one left on the shelf.’ ‘If you don’t save for your future you won’t have one.’
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Why do adults and people of authority think an instilling of fear is the most effective way to get us to do the ‘right’ thing? As we get older, this fear morphs into other insecurities, which never fully go away. If we were taught differently, could we live more fearlessly? More fully?
That day if I had ignored my panic on the carnival ride, I would have had an incredible experience to share. I would have seen the sky at a crazy angle and competed with the birds for a slice of their kingdom. The logical part of me knows how to vanquish fear, but when has fear ever listened to logic?
'Still Figuring It Out’ a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood will appear every Saturday on Asianet Newsable. Arathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:41 PM IST