When I was younger I was afraid of the dark. And when I mean “scared”, I mean frozen, combat or flight mode, the morning won’t be “scared”. My patient father expected my steps every night and only waited for the moment when I shyly peered through the door with my stuffed bunny in hand, awake and wide-eyed with fear.
One night especially, my father decided that it was time not only to allay my fears, but also to provide me with a better tool to deal with them. With a tired smile, he grabbed my hand and led me downstairs to our computer. I greeted the soft glow of the screen that lit our faces in the dark room as it printed out a single sheet of paper. He knelt down and handed me the page, advising me to read it every time I was afraid of the dark; only then would I realize that my monsters weren’t that scary.
In time, I have overcome my fear of creatures hiding in the shadows of my room. Instead, I started spending my nights reading books, chatting with friends, and studying. This note soon disappeared in the depths of my memory – until I read “Dune” by Frank Herbert.
As I slowly flipped through the freshman’s pages during my lunch break, I read something I recognized immediately – the litany against fear. It shocked me that something came up in a book I read that played such an important role in suppressing my childhood fears, much less a science fiction novel.
“I mustn’t be afraid.
Fear is the killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total annihilation with it.
I will look my fear in the eye.
I’ll let it go over me and through me.
And when it’s over, I turn my inner eye to see his way.
Where fear is gone, there will be nothing. Only I will stay. “
The litany against fear is an affirmation that while you may not get rid of fear, it can be put into perspective. I later learned that it was modeled on a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before they die. The brave taste of death only once. Of all the miracles I have heard so far, it seems strangest to me that people should fear that death, a necessary end, will come when it does. “
Similar messages were conveyed throughout history from Aristotle to Nelson Mandela. They all share the common theme that fear, whether physical or emotional, can be overcome with a strong will.
I don’t think this resurgence was purely accidental, and I don’t intend to treat it as such. Although I may have forgotten about it as a kid, I believe I should take this with me for the rest of my life. Although my adult fears are far more realistic than those of the boogie man, I learned from an early age to face my fears; I owe that to my father.
Whenever a monster comes to mind, I’ll always remember the piece of paper I kept on my bedside table in my nursery. Who knows, maybe I’m still scared of the dark.
Linnea Lindell is a graduate of Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, [email protected]