"I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total annihilation." --From Frank Herbert's Dune
When I was a teenager, I read Dune on the recommendation of a middle school (We called it Jr. High on those days) English teacher. I remember being profoundly changed from the books in Herbert's series. I memorized the litany against fear that Paul uses in it and I used to chant it daily, using it whenever I felt overwhelmed by the world.
I used it a lot.
I was often afraid, though I suspect no one knew it.
I reflected on the litany just the other day, for two unrelated reasons. First, in channel flipping, we came across the movie adaptation of Dune and struggled to stand to watch it for even a few minutes. Yes, it was as dreadful as I remembered. It wasn't so much that the effects were terrible (they were), but having the characters whisper out their internal thoughts and feelings at every turn was both laughable and insulting to the watcher's intellegence.
But I digress.
This isn't about critique of a screenplay. It's about fear. The second unrelated reason I recalled the litany is that someone I love is dealing with significant fear. So I told him about using the litany when I was his age. And the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe the litany is wrong. Or at least not completely right.
Yes, fear can be corrosive. Yes, it can feel like it's going to destroy you. But to deny it, to push it away doesn't diminish its power; it only strengthens it.
So here's what I think: Everyone is afraid. No matter how old we are or how seemingly confident. Deep down, we all fear. We all wait for the other shoe to drop.
Some people are better at covering that fear than others. Some are really skilled at putting their fear in a blind spot and never looking directly at it. But the thing is, it's still there.
In my adult life, I've done things that have terrified me. I take emotional risks every day, in every social interaction. We all do. That's the crazy thing. We're all running around pretending that it's all under control. If we could all hear one another's internal dialogue, first, I think life would rival the sheer awfulness of the Dune movie, and second, it would also show just how pervasive the experience of fear is.
Ultimately saying "I will not fear" is like saying to the universe "I don't feel like dealing with the laws of physics. I think I'll fall up, today." That method didn't really work out very well for me. Now when I am afraid, I let myself feel it. I look at it. I say hello to it. Let it know it's not alone. Hello, fear. There you are again.
It's a different path. It's not easy and it doesn't make the fear magically disappear, but it sure is a shorter litany--a whole lot easier to memorize.