“Fear–So What?”

“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons—
from the failure—so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.”—Maya Angelou


            When I was fifteen I was completely enamored with a particular book series.  In the lazy, warm days of summer, I would peacefully sway outside on a hammock while deliciously delving into the latest installment of Francine Pascal’s “Fearless.”  It was addicting and mouth-watering all at the same time.  Aptly titled, the popular series told the story of a young girl, Gaia, who was born without the gene of fear.  Yep, that’s right… Gaia lived, breathed and faced life without the burdening anxiety of terror or panic.  And she was a total badass—she obliterated anyone who barricaded her path and loved without normal emotional restraint.

            I had all but forgotten about my love affair with “Fearless” until recently.  The crippling, debilitating face of fear meets me frequently these days—from feeling frightened about my next steps in recovery to fearing the outcome of the next few years of my life, I am surrounded by anxiety.  But what would life be like minus the impending panic of fear? 

            As I inch forward in the painful process of recovery and grieving, I cannot help but wonder how liberating it be to feel the innate, human fear I carry dissipate into nothingness.  In a relationship dominated by a pathological partner, many stages occur that intensify the attaching bond between a sociopath and his prey, including the “fear as intensity” phase.  In this dichotomous relationship, fear is used as a tool in not only controlling the victim, but also in increasing the feeling of a strong, unwavering attachment.

            “Fear INCREASES the sense of bonding and vicariously then increases intensity. Fear and intensity are used in coercion, hostage taking, Stockholm syndrome and war. Pathological Love Relationships use varying levels of fear (of violence, of abandoning the relationship, of being unfaithful) for increased fear effect which causes the person to feel it as an intense attachment. Fear is experienced as intensity. The higher and more frequent emotion of fear, the stronger the attachment and intensity will be perceived.” (Excerpted from Sandra Brown’s “Women Who Love Psychopaths”)

            The after shocks and effects of being consumed by a pathological individual include maddening duality of cognitions (cognitive dissonance), the obsession of “programmed” or “groomed” cognitions and the confusing, paradoxical feelings of positive regard and strong emotional attachment to the abuser (Stockholm Syndrome).  In dealing with PTSD, as well as Stockholm Syndrome, I can attest to the infuriating cognitions swirling rapidly through the mind of a survivor.  Maddening, excruciating and heartbreaking, the emotional process of recovery and memories are numbed through defense mechanisms—even the body detects fear and compensates for the intense wave of adrenaline and depression. 

 “You have to learn to select your thoughts the same way you select your clothes everyday… Now that’s a power you can cultivate.” –Eat, Pray, Love

           Sometimes it feels as though I am drowning and thrashing in a foot of water, as fear cripples me in seeing beyond the scars of yesterday.  Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel looks as though it’s dimming and the fear of never recovering scares me into a terrorized panic.  And sometimes, I would give anything to be like Gaia, to be fearless and face those deceiving cognitions with my head up and my mind ready for battle.  But other days, reality sets in and I hear fear knocking at the door.  My faith answers and I have survived one more day.


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