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A Conversation With Fear

Excerpt:

Part One,
“The Moment of Fear”

Chapter 1
“Meeting the Moment”

Page 5

 

Some thrill-seekers are accustomed to taking risks in the courtroom, dealing with their teenagers, creating a painting. They know how to face that moment intellectually, emotionally, artistically, or psychologically, but they want to translate that risk-taking into sport, experiencing fear in one of its most physical manifestations. “I want to feel it in every muscle,” a student said to me. Conversely, others who barely blink at physical risk want to learn how to take more ethereal leaps, like a ski racer I know who deliberated for months before deciding to audition for a play.

At the other extreme of the continuum are those that do not want thrill at all. Fear haunts them. They want to be free of it. They want relief, some ease. They have often survived a trauma that has overwhelmed their lives, invading their “home city.” What was once comfortable and familiar is not often a challenge. Everywhere, even home, is a new place, with new rules, new pressures, new limits contracting their feelings of comfort and freedom. For them the edge of a cliff can pop up anywhere. Just to live, they must constantly pass through the moment. Outsiders, especially thrill-seekers, often can’t see these moments. Getting in the car to drive three hours to see the grandchildren for the first time after her husband died. Returning, brain-injured, to golf where he golfed and socialized for twenty years. Walking alone out to the barn on a cold, winter night. These are the freedom-seekers. They want to return to some semblance of being free: safe and “at home.” But like thrill, that freedom comes inextricably coupled with fear.

Thrill-seekers voluntarily choose to play with speed and gravity: water-skiing, bike racing, skydiving, skidding a car in a parking lot. Freedom-seekers want to return to activities they did before—riding a horse one has already ridden for five years, ice-skating after a major surgery—activities chosen not in a search

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