I am afraid of talking to people, being an asshole, and running out of things to write. Other people’s list of fears may run a little more like, being randomly murdered, spiders, and heights.
But regardless of the words that fill that list, in our world, most fears are irrational. They don’t make sense, and they stop us from doing the very things that make life worth living.
For me, I have found that my fear of people is most crippling. I have difficultly talking to people on a pretty basic level, and when there is even a small language barrier, the ease with which I can find an ‘excuse’ to not talk to… anyone, is startling.
“We can’t communicate very clearly,” “I’ll bring it up after I learn how to say it in Punjabi,” or the long term pal, “She looks a little down today, I’ll ask when she’s feeling better,” are all consistent weapons in my ‘keep Ellie from living’ arsenal.
Although I had this fear in the US, I knew people better there, and as long as I didn’t strike up conversations with strangers I was pretty okay dealing with my network. But now that I am in a place where I know no one, I have discovered that I am a complete push-over.
I currently work at a school here. The purpose of this visit was for me to introduce some new methods from the US, or just from my own research, and then implement them in the fresh-slate kind of way that only someone who hasn’t set themselves in any method can.
And yet, whenever I do anything different, I am bowled over by the other teachers. Not intentionally, of course. But all they can see is a confused and ignorant angrezi who still can’t figure out the damn system.
And I don’t correct them. So far the only time I stood up to a teacher and said, “No, I will not do what you ask,” was about two months into my new job, and it was because one of the teachers asked me to quite vehemently to slap a kid.
It took me two months, and a teacher refusing to give me an eraser for me to verbalize why I don’t use physical violence! The next day when a teacher undid the work I had done with the kids — using a new method — and wrote what she thought they should learn over top of it, I stayed silent.
My irrational fear of people has me caught in it’s web, and it has kept me from doing the very thing I came here to do; to experiment, to teach, and to learn.
Instead I have quietly played with kids in the corner, ignoring that my time is slipping away and I still haven’t tried anything.
We all have these fears, many are probably not quite as damaging and ubiquitous as “people.” (I mean come on, did I really have to fear the very thing that I will never be able to escape — the very thing I can’t escape?) But nevertheless, all of us make a swift exit to stage left when certain things arise and the problem is that — in the 21st century — almost all of those fears are irrational.
A while ago — think beginning of humans — being scared of people made sense. You had no clue if they were going to club your head in and steal the deer you just caught so you sure as hell should be scared of them!
Go ahead cave man, stay in your social bubble, live a long life of terror! That is what it takes for your life to be long.
The issue is, I am not a cave man. In the 21st century, there is a world wide trust through society and, although I shouldn’t go around trusting every rando who comes my way, being afraid of talking to someone who I have worked with for the last two months is just stupid and damaging — to say the least.
Taking a step back to the even bigger picture fear, across all species, is essentially a call to action. Originally, that action was fight, flight, or freeze.
If there is a lion, we had to make a quick decision based on the tools at our disposal, our relative speed, and how hungry he seems to chose which to do. But today, the range of appropriate responses to fear, has expanded.
When we feel fear we can now take the time to over come it. Just collapsing into the three default responses no longer makes sense because our fear is archaic; it is an ancient drive to protect ourselves from things that no longer threaten us.
Now don’t get me wrong. Fear is still useful. But we have to let it be a call to directed action instead of instinctual action.
If we are afraid of people, we can use our minds to discount those fears on a mental basis. Then we can move on to challenge ourselves to do the things we are terrified of doing with the knowledge that there will not be negative repercussions.
Or, at least, confident in the knowledge that what ever comes our way will be something significantly less upsetting than a club to the face and potential starvation.