I feel it necessary to pause for a moment to explain my definitions for the words fear and love – partly because you’ll be seeing them frequently in this blog and should understand what I actually mean by them, and partly because my original post for today is far more personal than I’m accustomed to being…that’s right, I’m stalling tomorrow’s post because I’m afraid.
But this post is vital for understanding my goal for this trip and the lesson’s I’ve been learning.
Fear. You might understand it as the jumpy sensation you experience when you’re in a haunted house, or when you try something like this:
While you’d obviously be correct, my definition encompasses a much wider array of feelings and scenarios.
Let’s say that it’s 8:45 a.m., you’re driving into downtown Pittsburgh, PA to get to work, and traffic is now stopped, simply because the drivers 3 miles ahead are incapable of maintaining the speed limit through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. You get angry – an emotion that most people view as being entirely separate from fear.
But why are you angry? It’s not simply the scenario that has sparked your rage. You’re merely sitting on top of a soft cushion while sitting still – something that you probably do for enjoyment in your free time at home.
No, the answer to this question lies at a depth of mind that few individuals dare to explore.
As your brain processes what is going on around you, it’s linking your current situation with memories of past similar situations that you’ve experienced (or that you’ve heard about). This is one of our basic instincts, and one that’s been crucial for the survival of our species.
Whether subconsciously or not, your mind links the current time (8:45 a.m.) with the fact that you’re sitting still on the freeway, and connects this situation with memories of being late to work. Your mind remembers that the consequences of being late to work last time were unpleasant, possibly even resulting in you or somebody you know being fired. You don’t want to get fired, because you have repressed childhood memories of when your father experienced unemployment, along with the pain that you watched him and your family endure as a result of it.
So to summarize, the traffic that you are sitting in sparks up deep, negative memories of past events and emotions, of which you are afraid of having to endure again.
Thus, you respond in the one way that seems most natural to humans: you get angry. It doesn’t matter at whom or what you project that anger onto, so long as you have some outlet (other than yourself) to attack. Thus, like a mother bear who shows aggression at an encroaching threat, you lash out at this make-believe danger, as if it might do your situation some sort of good. Here’s a free life-hack:
Getting angry at traffic doesn’t improve a damn thing. And unless you’re attempting to scare away some sort of predator (like a tarantula), anger is rarely an effective/beneficial solution.
But anger isn’t the only emotion that I view as being synonymous with fear. Sadness, jealousy, depression, hatred – pretty much every emotion that makes you feel bad can be tied back to the fear of re-experiencing some past pain or struggle, if you’re willing to objectively break things down. Which isn’t easy. Especially when you’re still sitting in Pittsburgh traffic and in the heat of the moment.
But that is exactly what I’m attempting to do throughout this trip. I’m studying my negative emotions objectively, breaking them down to my core fears, and attempting to work through them. One painful memory at a time. Why? Because fears can consume and deteriorate your life in ways that you might not expect, taking away time in which you could be experiencing love.
What is my definition of love?
You might immediately picture romance when I say love, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Love, to me and to many great writers I’ve read, is the series of positive feelings that you get whenever fear is momentarily absent from your mind. Joy, peace, excitement, passion, and nostalgia. It’s the feeling that a toddler experiences as he freely explores his environment (at least, until his parents have been able to successfully project their own fears and pains into his mind – which we’ve all experienced). Love leads to the beautiful moments and feelings that we crave in life. Unfortunately, our minds are hardwired to believe and obey our fears far more readily than our desire for these love-based emotions.
This, I feel, is the reason for the current state of the world. From generation to generation, we teach our children how to fear the world and the “bad people” in it, though we forget to ever show them how to release their pain and live in a state of love.
You may have entirely different definitions for the words “fear” and “love,” and that’s perfectly fine! I simply wished for you to know mine, that you might understand what I mean as I continue to write about my Journey of Fear.