Fear – The Dark Side of Hope


Fear motivates us.  Fear moves us.  Fear is the thing that reaches up and grabs you by the throat and shakes the marbles loose in your grey matter, forcing you to do something, or run away.  And, a little fear, is a good thing.

I’m afraid of being eaten by sharks.  So, my fear tells me not to dress like a baby harbor seal and bob about in the surf.  Cue Jaws music…

via tumbler.com

via tumbler.com

That’s a healthy fear.  I have a fear of electrocution, so I don’t stick a knife in a light socket.  Another healthy fear.


You can fear any number of things; you can be afraid of the dark, afraid of spiders, afraid of the dentist or afraid of dying.  The men in white jackets, who come to take you away, might use fancy language like claustrophobic, agoraphobic, or bat-crap crazy, but being afraid can paralyze you.  Worse, a fear of failure, or fear of meeting other’s expectations, will stop you from doing anything.

via tumblr.com

via tumblr.com

There is the fear that keeps you safe and the unhealthy kind that drops you to your knees.  It’s more of a respect for the known vs. the unknown, or the safe choice, as opposed to the chance.  The “what-if’s” of life.  What if, my book sucks?  What if, so-and-so doesn’t follow me on Facebook?  What if, I’m not good enough?  I learned late in life, that it doesn’t matter.  It’s insidious and once this virus starts, it’s like a cancer  – it grows and chokes the life out of you.

Toxic fear nibbles away at your fragile self conscious and starts bargaining.  “If you don’t write anything, then nobody can tell you how bad it is.”  Or, “Don’t take a chance.”  And, “What will they think?”  Fear is the dark side of hope.

What happens when the darkness swells up and threatens to swallow you whole?  Once your anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate come back down from the stratosphere,  you start to recognize your fears are nothing but wisps of smoke.  If you don’t clear the air and push on, your fear will stop you from realizing your potential and your dreams.  Once you clean up your own mess, then there are other “outside” influences that will try their damnedest to derail your Happy Train.

The world is full of negative people who thrive by sucking the life out of others.  These psychic vampires can only enter your world if you let them in.  We have to be mindful of these energy sucking creatures because they often assume the form of friends, co-workers, critics, and people you thought you trusted.  Their negativity sprouts from, “Why do you bother writing? for example.  Or,   “I wouldn’t do it that way,” or, “What would so-and-so think?”  These vampires rarely create anything and focus on tearing down others.  Fueled by jealously, a misaligned superiority complex, or a colon in need of a deep cleaning, they get their jollies by planting little seeds of doubt and fear.

In reality – it’s their fear, not yours.


Fear is the static that prevents me from hearing myself.  Samuel Butler

In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it.  George Bernard Shaw


  1. I contracted the fear-virus (the cancer version) as a young’un. It did “grow and choke the life” out of me for many years. After much mess clean-up in my twenties and thirties (okay…and a wee-bit more in my forties), the “what-if-I’m-not-good-enough” skeleton has loosened its death-grip on my throat (but still rattles a few more times than I’d like). I’m riding my Happy Train more often than splattering on the rails (and quick to weed out the psychic vampires), so life is good. Might even celebrate turning 50 in a couple years with the new nick-name of Hope 🙂 Thanks for another great post, James. Just the reminder I needed today.

  2. Thanks for the comment Diane (Hope). I think we all have to unlearn our fear habits as we grow. The Happy Train has very fragile rails and every once in a while I jiggle off the rails too. Life is good.

  3. Wonderful post. In the movie “Defending Your Life” with Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks (1991), it proposes that the whole purpose of our lives is to conquer our fears. Although it’s just a movie, this has stayed with me all these years.
    Your last full paragraph captures it well… It takes a lot of practice and then, awareness, to not get pulled into the undertow of negativity. Oh, and then, strength, to swim our way back out!

    1. I do think about that movie from time to time. The Past Lives Pavilion would be something I wouldn’t want to see. I would be that guy eaten by the tiger. Thanks!

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