The only thing we have to fear is fear itself … and spiders!*
Franklin D. Roosevelt (*Annotated by Robot Chicken)
Is there anything the human species will try to avoid more than fear? Rituals, industries, belief systems and even entire cultures have arisen as a defence against our fears and doubts (not to mention cuddly toys and cute little night lights to keep the dark at bay). In turn, we assiduously avoid situations, people and even times of day that make our skin perspire, our hands tremble and our stomachs churn.
What’s more, these fears are often notoriously illogical and even highly unlikely. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed that at a funeral ‘most people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy’. Such is our fear of public speaking.
And yet our fears are always with us. As often as we may try to bury or ignore them, they are always lurking around the corner, in the closet or under the bed.
Fears do not always spring from the irrational. Fears of the unknown, of dark alleyways or even of foreigners tend to have some of their roots in historic precedents. An ‘unknown’ mushroom, for instance, may lead to death by poisoning. Dark alleyways can conceal any number of dangers, including uneven surfaces that may trip us up or perhaps a person with a wicked intent. And, throughout the course of history, foreigners haven’t always visited for the purpose of tourism, trade or friendly immigration.
However, in our fear of fear we do tend ...