The Core of All Our Fear


We are never afraid of what might happen.
Rather, we fear not being able to bear what might happen.
Or — on the contrary — actually being able to do so after all.

It recently dawned on me: this is what it ultimately comes down to, every single time.

As discussed in my post on Mindfulness and Panic Attacks, we (more specifically: I) have a tendency to toss and turn and worry ourselves sick about potential future scenarios. We daydream feverishly about becoming a complete failure, about losing our jobs and our homes and our children, our parents and siblings, friends, our dignity, our immaculate figure, our respect, about losing our lives, our love, and lastly, our minds.

We are terrified of these maybe-prospects. But what we are truly terrified of is not that they might happen; rather it is that we may or may not have the strength to get through it. And sometimes, both the may as well as the may not are equally horrifying.

When I, by some sick twist of imaginations fuelled by darkness and trauma, imagine I could one day suddenly lose my spouse, what is so fundamentally horrifying about this abyss of tragedy is in fact the aftermath. Would I be able to take it? Indeed, both the option of being able to “get over it” and the one of “not getting over it” cause the exact same amount of horror.

But here is the clue: In both cases, our fear is essentially a waste of emotional energy.

We will never know for sure until it happens.

And we do not have to know — because it has not happened.

We are not made to mentally paint every single potential scenario that our minds can conceive of.

We are made to bear the ones that will eventually happen. And the truth is, we are capable of bearing so much more than we might in fact want to.

In Breaking Bad, Walter at one point says:

I have spent my whole life scared. Frightened of things that could happen, might happen, might not happen. Fifty years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at 3 in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis, I sleep just fine. And I came to realize it’s that fear that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So get up. Get out in the real world. And you kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth.

And I fully subscribe to it. Except the kicking and the teeth part. Don’t kick people in the teeth. There are better ways of communicating your anger.