I will not give in to my fear.
I will not allow the things in the shadows to hold me back.
I will not whimper and run home at the sounds of footsteps behind me.
I will not cringe at the foul breath on the back of my neck.
I will not give in to my fear.
Ah fear, that emotion that we cannot outrun, no matter how hard we try. And we do try, we in these modern times. We are taught that we can control our emotions, that it is our birthright to decide how to feel. Emotions become twisted, equated with children, equated with weakness, used by the patriarchy to denote the weakness of women. We are taught that love is weakness, don’t cry, don’t show chinks in your armor. I won’t talk about empaths here, those of us that can feel others emotional states. No, I want to talk about fear.
Fear is very simple: it allows us to perceive a threat. That’s it. That is all that fear is meant to do. “Oh big scary thing, I need to run away.” In layman’s terms, fear keeps us alive. Its part of the fight or flight response that we carried over from our ancestors. Fear is the unknown, that which has driven our ancestors for millions of years. When you can’t see into the shadows, every movement becomes a potential threat. Today, we don’t have the same environmental threats that they did, there are no mega-fauna to stalk and kill us, nor do we have the same fears about the world around us. I know whats in the dark, that the sun will rise again, that when my child is sick I can take him or her to the doctor and get them better. Life simply doesn’t hold the same triggers for fear that it used to. But we still respond to our new situations with fear.
The biggest fear on our national radar was triggered by the events of 9/11 and, as can be expected, the nation as a whole overreacted in an attempt to assuage that fear. We are afraid of the nameless enemy and so we bolt the door shut and make up rules that are supposed to keep them out. We are afraid of the things we can’t see and the media and the government play on these fears to control the population. Words like terrorist, pandemic, economy and unemployment are all trigger phrases intended to activate our fear response and essentially bypass the logical part of our brain. My front page of a popular news and search engine this morning talks about kidnapping, racism, unemployment, “pink slime”, and the political race, all in one go. Forget warmongering. This is all about fear-mongering.
On a more personal level, our individual fear responses shape how we interact with the world. You might not even realize why you are avoiding a given situation, but somewhere buried in your subconscious is a seed of fear. I’m not talking about phobias, but those things that make us change our paths as a response. Lets say a good position comes across your desk, pays more, and is closer to what would make you feel fulfilled. The problem is: you have never worked in that field before. How many of us would apply, send in our resumes and interview without a hint of fear and anxiety? How many of us would make up an internal dialogue about how I’ not ready for that kind of job, they won’t hire me anyway, I’ve been here for x number of years so I might as well not worry about that other job and just ride this one out, I can’t afford to switch jobs in this economy.
Fear works in our spiritual lives as well. If your path is based mostly on UPG, then you face the challenges of getting others to listen to what you have experiences without laughing at you. If your path is initiatory, you might face the fear of being accepted into a coven that you click with. Does your SO support your path or laugh at you? Do your children practice as you do or do you hide who you are so they won’t be teased and bullied at work? Are you in the broom closet to your friends, your family, your coworkers, your neighbors? Does your fear have a say in what you wear, how you practice, where you live?
My own personal spiritual path has sometimes been described as “Norse satanism”. While I disagree with this title, I do recognize that this has made me reconsider what information I give to what groups. I don’t always tell people the gods I work with, I don’t truly want to be ostracized for my practices.
“I am afraid” I whisper into the darkness.
“I know” She replies. “Do it anyway.”
The real fear for me is change. It feels like a slippery slope, I might lose my footing and lose myself in the process. It is the unnerving experience of walking across quicksand. I face fear every day in my pagan path. My Goddess’ are constantly pushing me to do more, be more. Give up old habits, take up new ones, speak to strangers, say no to friends. Its a heady mixture of fear and courage that drives us out of the comfort of the churches and synagogues of our childhood, into the wilderness of our own convictions.
I am not sure that fear can ever be overcome or tamed. Maybe its simply a matter of learning to coexist with fear, a tenuous balance of the light and dark that makes the pagan path so unique.