Facing Our Fears

Some people love to feel afraid. But I’ve never understood people like that.

Last week, my husband and I went with a couple of friends to The Forest of Fear in Tuxedo Park, New York (the scariest theme park in Hudson Valley, operating out of the town with the silliest name). We arrived just after dusk, then got in line to take a walking tour of the forest’s haunted house. It had been years since I had taken part in a fun Halloween activity, so I was understandably excited.

As we waited on a twenty-minute line, actors dressed zombie brides, vampires, and ax-wielding Easter bunnies (yes, really) slipped through the crowd to startle uneasy park visitors. A girl in line behind us was particularly jumpy; she screamed every time a new creature approached.

We all laughed at how silly this girl was, but my stomach began to clench. I kept a close watch on the rest of the line, making sure that no white-faced actor could sneak up and surprise me.

“This is a little creepy,” I admitted to my friends. “I’ll be glad when we get inside.”

“Inside where? The haunted house?” My husband shook his head. “You do realize that once we get in there, people are going to be jumping out and trying to scare you, right?”

Well, yes I had. And no, I hadn’t. It was one of those things I had realized without really thinking about. As we moved ever-closer to the entrance of the haunted house, I began to wonder why something like this was considered fun.

I may not love to feel afraid, but I’m all too familiar with the emotion. Fear has a way of messing with our sense of logic. Fear itself is terrifying and unpleasant–but with only a few notable exceptions, the things we fear are often harmless. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve cried while waiting on-line for a roller coaster. Somehow, I manage to convince myself that I’m not getting off the roller coaster alive–never mind the unending stream of small children getting on the same ride all day with nary a problem.

As the tall clown with jagged teeth took our haunted house tickets, I reminded myself that plenty of children go through The Forest of Fear haunted house every weekend. If they could do it, I surely could, too. And what was I so afraid of, anyway–that one of the college drama students would accidentally step on my foot?

When it comes to writing, our fear of fear itself can stall us for years on end. We may fear that we’re not going to be good enough. We may fear that we’ll produce something abysmal, and everyone will make fun of us.

And all of those things could happen…but honestly, so what? Are you going to die from shame? Each time someone says “I read your story, but it was only okay”, are you going to shrivel up into a ball?

Writing-related fears are like tall college kids wearing fright masks and wielding rubber knives. Sure, they may startle you at first, but ultimately you realize that they can do you know real harm. In the end, you simply smile, share a nervous laugh with your friends–and press on.

Writer and educator Sara Goas is a graduate of Lycoming College, and she specializes in creating content for the web. Her site saragoas.com has more examples of her work.


3 thoughts on “Facing Our Fears

  1. Some people – a lot of people, it seems – have trouble feeling or understanding what they feel. I lost my taste for pure horror movies when I realized why my ex-wife loved watching them: she could never be bothered to understand her own feelings. She needed the artifice of something extreme to inspire that jolt of a pure emotion. Horror movies made good fare for feeling fear. She read erotica just to feel pure lust. She liked getting close to a train as it was about to pass, lean in and just scream at the top of her lungs.

    At first, I thought this was just her personality. In time, I realized many people I resonated with didn’t look forward to something external to induce a pure emotion. Many of my friends liked reading or watching multilayered dramas for the blend of emotion and the events they could either relate to or learn from. My ex spent a lot of time remote and alone with her cigarette. In time, I realized she hated exploring feelings, least of all her own.

    My kids like those pure emotions. So do I. But after awhile, I find primary colors tiresome. I need ranges of hues in a kind of pattern. I need something more than a ritual of getting scared just because it’s October.

  2. Well said, Sara. Dale Carnegie said to determine the worst that can happen, accept it, then move on. Same applies to facing the fear of public speaking. One you realize that if things don’t go well your first born isn’t going to be taken away, then it’s an easier go.

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