In my experience thus far I’ve noticed that fears almost always stem from other fears. For example: my fear of dentists comes from a combined fear of pain and ridicule, the latter of the two being something that was instilled in me at a very young age by the combined efforts of the school system and my own reckless self. I have yet to solve this fear, but that’s not the point. Most people aren’t afraid of height itself, but of falling and getting hurt or killed. Fear of heights comes from a fear of death or pain. Fear of public speaking comes from a fear of ridicule.
What about a fear of bees? It seems a little bit… juvenile isn’t the right word. Neither is unfounded. Bees have the capacity to sting, which hurts for a little while, particularly if, like me, you possess the unique curse that is sensitive skin. Or you’re allergic, which I am not(to my knowledge). So, one might argue that a fear of bees comes from a fear of pain. In my case, however, that’s not really it. Yes, there’s an element of that, but I’ve gotten over that in the last few years, and I’ve been afraid of bees almost my whole life.
In fact, there have only been two times in my life when I’ve not been afraid of bees: when I was still in high school marching band, and currently, as of this morning. That’s where this exploration came from, actually, stepping outside to spray some sealant on the Death card so that the color doesn’t rub off. There were bees everywhere, minding their own business, doing what bees normally do, which is none of my business. They seemed curious, today, which for once in my life I found endearing in some ways, instead of annoying or, at worst, scary. They weren’t hurting me, though, and as soon as they saw that I was working on something of my own, and not bothering them, they left me alone. So, I started to think: what about bees made me so scared of them?
My logical mind and symbolic mind have a way of working together that I’ll never quite understand, but the combined effort quickly came up with an idea: Bees are hard workers, I am currently working hard, and I’m enjoying what I’m working on. The other time I wasn’t afraid of bees, being Marching Band, where we get exposed to bees every day until cold sets in, I thought it was just the exposure to them lessening the fear. But I was working hard then, too, much harder than I am currently, on something that I loved doing. I concluded, then, that my fear of bees stemmed from a fear of doing hard work.
A fear of doing hard work. Now, just let that sink in for a bit. For a lot of readers, that probably sounds a bit… weird. Why would you / how could you be afraid of doing hard work? It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, actually. I didn’t do a lot of homework, and barely eeked into college because my ACT scores balanced out my abominable grade point average. I never saw the point of hard work, when it wasn’t something I wanted to do, particularly since I was learning things just fine in class. My problem with hard work stemmed from a fear of losing whatever freedom I could get my hands on. Freedom of speech, freedom of play, freedom of thought, all things that I have valued my whole life. Having found a way to integrate freedom with hard work – working hard at work worth doing, as Teddy Roosevelt would say – I find myself being more like a bee, and so less afraid of them in my understanding of them.
All of this begs the question, how can we get over other fears? Fear of snakes, for instance? Or flying? Or dealing with in-laws? The key is in understanding. Human beings, all of us, fear what we don’t understand. We want to know and explain everything, which is why science and religion are so prevalent in our lives. If we don’t know what that thing rustling in the bushes is, our immediate reaction is fear. It’s self-preservation instinct. There’s no problem with that, and can sometimes be helpful, but in that instinct lies the key to all fear.
So, what fear are you working to understand?