Advanced Essay #1: Fear Itself


The goal of this paper was to attempt to analyze the causes of fear and how different people experience it. Fear is a big part of my life and I wanted the reader to really consider how they deal with their own fears. I'm most proud of my descriptive language. It provides a nice cover up for the actual writing and analysis, which I feel needs a great deal of improvement.

Fear is an extremely powerful force. It can motivate people to do things that they never thought they could. It can be used to manipulate people into acting against their own self interest. People tend to think of fear as something negative. They see it as an obstacle to overcome. These people want to control their fear, which can lead to them taking massive risks. Other people use their fear as a crutch. They allow their fear to control them. Ideally, people should find a healthy balance between these two extremes. However, everyone has unique experiences with fear that constantly evolve over time, causing their perspective to change.

When I was younger, I was quite an adventurous child. I would spend most of my days outside or running around with friends. I was also quite accident-prone and would injure myself on a pretty regular basis, amassing a marvelous collection of bruises and scrapes. But, it never stopped me. One day, while playing with two friends in my backyard, one of them proposed that we climb the massive pine tree that sits at the back of the yard. This, of course, was a horrible idea. I had climbed plenty of trees before but never one this tall, mainly due a strong dislike of heights. However, on this occasion I decided to “face my fear” and I followed my friends up. That, of course, was a horrible idea. The ascent was long and arduous. Needles clawed at my face while sap adhered itself to every available surface. Undeterred, I pressed on. I was doing surprisingly well until I reached a large gap in the branches. As I paused, I made a fatal error. I looked down. I froze as my legs locked and my hands attempted to asphyxiate the branch upon which all of my hopes lay. I slipped suddenly, hanging from one hand. For a moment, all was still. Unfortunately, my hand betrayed me, sending me plummeting towards the ground.

I would never even think of doing something like this today. I am terrified of heights and it’s just not worth it. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done it then unless my friends were there to encourage me. People in general are afraid of being left out. It’s in our nature as social creatures,

and that can cause us to do ridiculous things like climb giant trees or more dangerous things with more severe consequences. These opposing fears are at constant war with one another. On one hand, one is afraid of the risk. On the other, one fears missing out.

Despite this, facing one’s fears is sometimes beneficial. Fears can be irrational, such as a fear of public spaces or a fear of birds. They don’t have much of a basis in reality and more in our own suspicions. However, we have them anyway because our brains concoct these odd fantasies to rationalize our suspicions and to reinforce them. That bird isn’t going to fly down and peck your eyes out, so you make up a scenario in which it does and convince yourself that it’s true. These fears are shaped by one’s personal experiences. In my experience, I don’t like leaving the house. However, it’s kind of unavoidable. So I try and face this fear by going for long walks in the woods alone.

One chilly winter afternoon, I was on another walk. I had been out for a while, exploring the meandering trails. I was so absorbed in my own thoughts, that I didn’t notice, the sudden lack of light until it was too late. Sometime during my walk, the sun decided to clock out early. I quickly turned around and tried to outrun the dark, to no avail. The night closed in and I was lost in the darkness. I stumbled blindly down what I thought was the path for what seemed like an eternity until the ground fell out from under me and slid down into oblivion, only just avoiding the half frozen river and a guaranteed case of hypothermia. At this point, the path didn’t even exist. I sat next to the water to pick up the pieces of my brain, eventually finding the will to use my legs again. With no other options, I followed the faint reflection of the moon on the water and hoped the current would take me in the right direction.

As if it isn’t obvious, I made it out alright. Even though this happened, even though I already didn’t want to go out in the first place, I still walk in the woods. An important aspect of fear is that there are two different kinds of fear. There are rational fears, like heights or bears, and there are irrational fears, like leaving the house or staircases. One must recognize that some fears are to be faced and others are to be acknowledged and respected. Bravery is not a complete disregard for fear, it’s the ability to tell the difference between a rational and irrational fear. I’m not saying I’m brave for walking in the woods a few times a week, but that is my own way of facing an irrational fear. When one finds the middle ground between blatant ignorance and crippling neurosis, then one can move on.