Monday, September 20, 2010


We watched Batman Begins again over the weekend, and one line jumped out at me and provided something new to think about. During his training period, Liam Neeson's character tells Batman, "What you really fear is inside you." We've all heard variations on this theme, but put so succinctly, it provided me with a certain comfort, because I am in control of what is inside of me.

I have always viewed fear as an external thing; a shadowy presence outside of me which has the power to strike when I least expect it, paralyzing me from moving forward. The point of the scene in the movie was that everything we fear resides in us, and we must face those fears in order to conquer them.

I suppose for some people, the idea of looking inward is terrifying, but I have the opposite view. I want to be in control of my own life, and not give up that control to outside influences. My greatest fears are likely similar to other people's: sickness, infirmity, death, poverty, violence, and airplane turbulence. Looking at them one by one, it becomes possible to isolate the root causes of each of them, and understand that I want to maintain control and not be surprised by anything.

No one wants to die, or at least the vast majority of the human population is afraid of the concept, but yet it's not a surprise to any of us. We are all going to die, but we have no idea when or how, and that element of surprise is therefore present in our every day lives. Many of my friends are thrill seekers and have learned to tame this fear in a way that I have yet to conquer, but some of those same people likely succumb to societal pressure in a way that I'm learning to untangle myself from.

In a very real way, we are all working on aspects of ourselves all of the time, and nothing is done in a moment. It takes years, or even our entire lifetime, to face our fears and find ways to master them. In a movie like Batman Begins, he is afraid of bats, so he forces himself into a cave where bats can fly all around him, and just like that, he's cured. It's not quite the same in real life. We come up against the same fears, over and over, and eventually find ways around some of our biggest issues.

Patience is required. I'm going to try to take the long range view of these things. I won't expect a miracle when I look inward to face my fears. I will give myself time to heal from what has hurt me and understand that growth is a very slow process, but the most rewarding thing we have as human beings. We are all in this life together, facing the same major terrors, and maybe we can encourage each other through the darkest of the valleys we encounter. If we know that we aren't the only ones with these fears, there is a chance we can fight them together, for there is safety and bravery in numbers.

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