Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fear and hope


Fear is one of the primary emotions, together with joy, anger, and grief. Fear generally refers to feelings elicited by tangible, realistic dangers, as opposed to anxiety, which often arises out of proportion to the actual threat or danger involved. Fear may be provoked by exposure to traumatic situations, observations of other people exhibiting fear, or the receipt of frightening information. Repeated or prolonged exposure to fear can lead to disorders such as combat fatigue, which is characterized by long-term anxiety and other emotional disturbances.



Before I started studying psychology, I worked as a woodcarver and cabinetmaker. One day I brought home a pile of dirty, moldy pieces of wood. My father looked at it and said if it were up to him he would throw it all in the garbage. But I patiently cleaned, sanded, filled, reglued, refinished, assembled, and polished the pieces. In the end I had a beautiful antique oak dining table.

So let that be a psychological lesson. No life, however dirty and broken, is beyond redemption. Or beyond hope.

Now, my father was a good man and he never abused me in any way. And he never told me that I was garbage. But imagine how it feels to be a child whose parents are abusive, critical, neglectful, and manipulative. These parents not only break down their child into a pile of sticks, but also, when the child stands there covered in guilt and shame, they tell the child, “Look at you! You’re just a piece of garbage.”

And why are there so many lives headed for the garbage dump? Fear. Fear of the hard work of going to psychotherapy to clean themselves off. Fear of letting go of the dirt, because it’s all they know, for, even if it’s dirt, at least it’s comfortable.

So you choose: a polished oak table, or a pile of broken sticks for the garbage. It’s your life.