Facing Fears

"I am afraid of heights, I am afraid of falling, and I am especially afraid of hitting the ground. I am afraid of ghosts and cemeteries, and I am especially afraid of death...which is rather funny, ahaha, because I'm also rather scared of life. I mean, I am scared of all the dangers of life: like mimes, clowns, dolls, puppets, and teddy bears. But let me get to the heart of it Doc--there are much scarier things out there.

"I am afraid of dogs because they could start talking at any moment and that would just be weird, don't you agree? And cats--I'm afraid of cats because of all that hair they shed--you can see it floating in the air just waiting to choke and suffocate an unsuspecting passerby. And do you ever wonder what birds are thinking? I don't think they are thinking! Their brains are too small--they could go nuts at any moment!"

AJ paused and gave the psychiatrist a suspicious glance. "You must be shaking with the trust I am putting on you," AJ said. "Secrets are power you know. You already know too much about me. But I've signed up for this deal so I better gather some foolish courage and stick to it. Even still, I better be concise Doc because I could run out of air at any moment. My lungs get tired, they take a break, next thing you know--I'm dead! You better be ready, Doc."

AJ took a tremendous breath, and then, gripping the sides of his red leather armchair like Captain Picard, he then engaged into the next rush of words.

"I am afraid of zebras because their stripes make them all blend into one, and you can't tell how many there are. What if there was an eight-legged, four-headed zebra in there and you can't tell? That would be bloody frightening, that's what!"

The 'Doc' involuntarily leaned an inch back in his chair.

"And Doc? All those stripes could hypnotize a man into becoming a zombie..."

AJ let his eyeballs shake as he stared at the ceiling. "...Zombies scare the living daylights out of me. As do all dungeon and dragon characters. They'll kill anyone for a few experience points, and they keep upgrading...there's no end to it."

The psychiatrist took a moment to take this in and was about to interrupt when AJ suddenly said, "I am deathly afraid of bubbles. I mean, if my head gets stuck in a bubble I will die. I won't be able to breathe. Did I mention I fear suffocation? Surprised?

"...Surprises scare the hell out of me. You never know when they could spring. They're like jack-in-the-boxes. You know, I fear anyone named Jack because of those damn boxes. And people think surprises are fun. So they throw them with evil smiles and false cries of joy. And they normally bring balloons with them. What if one of those balloons is full of poisonous gases?"

The psychiatrist took another attempt to speak, but AJ stopped him with a very serious claim.

"Doc, do you know what one of my biggest fears is? I fear I won't be able to do anything about my fears."

Now the psychiatrist, grabbing hold of a sudden thought, finally spoke. "You have some courage," he said. "You have come to me. That means that you are facing your biggest fear of helplessness."

"No," AJ said, "My biggest-biggest fear is something different. It's why I came here."

"And what is that?" asked the psychiatrist.

"I am afraid of Lucy."

"You are afraid of...Lucy," repeated the psychiatrist.

"Well, I am afraid she won't like me because I am a coward."

The doc took a thoughtful breath and then sat back in his chair with a smile. "Yet you have gained courage from her. That is why you are here. When you challenge your fears with your mind, your mind goes around in circles and makes things worse."

"It really does," AJ commented.

"And yet here you have gathered courage. Do you know why that is?"

"I fear the answer."

"Don't. It is a beautiful answer. The reason you have succeeded in facing that challenge is because you faced it with the heart."

AJ's eyes widened, his mouth opened, and his hand flew to his chest with a thud. "My heart?" he mouthed.

"Many of your fears can be mastered in that way. But the one fear that will take the most amount of work is the one that is holding you back from Lucy. That one is based off of logic. It is one that must be truly solved. And to solve it...you must become brave all the way through. And to become brave all the way through, you must master every other fear."

AJ stared.

"It will not be easy. But I am here to help you through it," continued the psychiatrist, unsure of how AJ was taking this.

"And you can't take as much time as you need..." The psychiatrist continued to gauge the man's reaction, but nothing of value came to the surface.

"Do you need to think about it for a moment?" he finally asked.

AJ licked his lips. "You think I can face these fears with my heart? Without thinking them over? I just do it out of feeling?"

"Exactly."

"My heart is beating rather fast right now..."

"That is natural."

AJ nodded, and though he was susceptible to growing paranoid over the condition of his heart, he was instead, taken by an exciting ripple of emotion right through the very area of his heart. Then he looked up and gave the Doc straight eye contact for the first time. "My heart is beating," he repeated. "So...I think that means that it's ready."

The End

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