Fear is The Mind Killer

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~ The Bene Gesserit litany against fear from Dune by Frank Herbert

Fear: the great saboteur.

Personally, I fear failure and the changes that usually accompany worldly success more than I fear death and public speaking. Mice don’t bother me, but heights and crawly things with more legs than spiders do.

You have your own fears. You know what they are.

Fear can be like a black hole. We can get sucked in never to emerge if we aren’t aware.

I love the quote from Dune about dealing with fear. The first line, “I must not fear,” is non-sensical at face value. Fears arise of their own accord. However, I interpret it to mean that I must not be paralyzed by fear.

The rest is a great process for dealing with any problematic emotion: feel the emotion, let it pass through you and let it go. Hiding from emotion and getting caught up in emotion are both ways to get stuck.

For me, reciting “fear is the mind killer” in the face of fear lets me experience the fear without being trapped by it.

I ran into fear this evening. Our new house has a pool. After a rather long process of getting it open that involved failing to figure out how to get the pump working and growing an excellent algae culture and learning how to kill said algae culture, it was ready for swimming in. And I was first.

As I stood at the edge of the pool preparing to dive in, I found myself afraid. I took a deep breath and dove in. It was beautiful. As I swam, enjoying myself tremendously, I noticed that I had not put my face into the water since diving in. I played gently with getting my face wet, but my resistance was great. My long-standing fear of putting my face underwater has not faded.

I didn’t always have this fear. I remember the swim instructor whose instruction triggered the fear. I used to call her sadist, but I realize now she was merely not able to understand my problem. I used to be a fish – in the water, underwater, handstands at the bottom of the pool, diving, water polo – one with the water. And I still love swimming. As long as my face is above the surface

But I want to get past my issues with putting my face in the water.

I expect I’ll be reminding myself that fear is the mind-killer a lot this summer.

And that ‘s okay.

Fear isn’t stronger than I am. And it isn’t stronger than you are.

Is fear an issue in your life? Is so, how are you managing it?

16 thoughts on “Fear is The Mind Killer

  1. Patrick Ross says:

    First off, I love the idea of opening with a quote not from Sun Tzu or Sufi, but the Bene Gesserit! Fantastic!

    I suppose this is from the CNF workshopping I’ve been doing the last 10 days, but I read this and I say, “Um, more on the swimming incident, please!” So, I guess I’m saying that.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Ah, yes. The story of how I went from fish to fear. Like so many unresolved personal things it is hard to write about in a way that works for a reader.
      Thanks for the challenge.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Ah, yes. The story of how I went from fish to fear.
      Like so many unresolved personal things, it is hard to write about in a way that works for a reader.
      Thanks for the challenge.

  2. Andrea says:

    Yeah, I wanna know too what the swim instructor did. You could assign it as a creative writing prompt. 😉 “Hardy” (less sensitive) people would make it something huge and highly sensitives would made it a look, a comment in front of the class, etc. 🙂 Fear is tricky bc sometimes I think it’s fear, bc that’s what’s told to us all the time, but truth is I really don’t want to do it and for good reason–like the fear of worldly success–a lot IS lost, including your own mind (fear or no fear). Or I just know I won’t like how it feels. Sometimes, I think, we do it ourselves, call those “don’t want tos” fears to make ourselves stronger, protect us even further from slipping into them. What would it be like to still have the fear but no self-judgment? Is the mind still killed? (I don’t know the answer.) What if we examine the aspect of the new thing and find out specifically what the ‘fear’ is and design our own creative version of the experience that doesn’t include that. ie Some people are “afraid of the phone” but like writing emails to communicate. I think that’s ok. Some people don’t like sales meetings, but they can run an online bookclub and generate clients from that. I think examining the fears closely, like you say, can help people find their special niche/approach without necessarily jumping off the high-dive. There is a lot of pressure in society to be aggressive; it’s high dive or nothin’ bud and we’re all watching. Frankly, I notice the folks who are doing something different. That’s the person I want to…email. 😉

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      I’m interested in the issue of fear being used when lack of desire is the reality. Now you’ve made me think. Hmmm…

  3. Fear has always been an issue in my life. Some fears I’ve managed to overcome (or outgrown) just by doing whatever it was I feared on a regular basis. Some fears I’ve run away from to deal with another time, when I feel more ready.

    Today I felt fear and I went silent, getting more afraid the more I burrowed into my cave. Finally, my husband asked me what I was thinking about. I launched passionately into the issues (re: something that doesn’t involve him so I knew he could just be the observer). After venting I was less afraid. But that doesn’t always work. (Sometimes venting just seems to reinforce the feeling.) In this case, it felt like I was speaking up and reaching out instead of staying silent and alone with it, and that felt liberating. Staying silent was creating shame.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Oh, I know that cave of fear well. I’m glad your husband was able to help you out in that instance.

  4. Terri says:

    Thank you for the reminder. We’ve all got our water, don’t we? Yes, as reader, I’m curious about the transformation from fish to the narrator’s fear. As someone who has dealt with an anxiety disorder for most (probably all) of my life, fear has manifested in dozens of ways. Sometimes I’ve dived into it … sometimes started by putting a toe in. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to step into it in some manner … even when it has meant a blowout panic attack. Other times, my body needs a rest, so there’s a time for that, too. In the last year, I’ve found breath meditation helpful… noting the transient nature of my emotional and bodily sensations. The itch always goes away, literally … and figuratively.

  5. Andrea says:

    I learned something new a few days ago. If it’s something you have to do, like a cutthroat business meeting or even a family gathering where folks will be there who were hard on you in the past, you can leave your inner child at home, with all her favorite things, toys, books, stuffed animals. I noticed today I felt “fear” of everything–the fan cutting my arm off as I stretched, my son, driving, so I decided to nestle my inner child in a pile of warm clothes and carry on. I looked over my husband’s shoulder and saw Jerry Sandusky plastered all over the news again and I thought to myself: No wonder my inner child is scared today. (This is all HSP stuff by the way. I think it works best for imaginational types too. Some say that’s all worry and fear really is, imaginational overexcitability. 🙂 Since yours is related to a childhood trauma, I wonder if you might leave your “inner child” in the shade, wrapped in a warm towel with an ice cream, or something, if you really want to do it. I know it sounds wacky. I tend to be quirky eccentric and not outwardly touchy feely so it’s tough for me too. Just a thought. 🙂

  6. Andrea says:

    Ha, not fear of my son, fear for my son’s safety. 🙂

  7. […] My hesitation centered around two major fears: […]

  8. Ah, fear. I like to remind myself that sometimes it carries a message. Sometimes, not always. But I’m learning to look at my fear and see if there’s a reason for it that I can take action on. If not, I attempt to ease it away. Like Patrick, I love the opening litany against fear!

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Thanks for the reminder that sometimes fear carries a message.
      Sometimes fear alerts us to a risk that we should not be taking.

  9. […] Fear can be a powerful guide, but we need to interpret it properly. […]

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