HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | OCTOBER 2016 | FEAR EDITION | “Rationalizing Away Your Fears”
I’m off to a late start–writing the article on Happy was surprisingly difficult–but I’m here to present the first of the October edition of HUMANS OF THE PFISTER. If you’ve been following HOTP, you’ll remember that I’ve already shared dozens of Human stories about life, liberty, happiness, augustness, and education. This month . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . BOO! This month, I’ll seek out stories of FEAR! I know, I know: that’s original. But that’s the thing about HOTP: each and every story from each and every guest of The Pfister IS original, IS unique. And yet each of these stories is, I think, one with which we all can connect.
I’ll be asking guests for stories or fear, fright, horror, and terror, as usual, using the etymologies of these words to prompt them in new and surprising ways.
FEAR (n.) Old English faer “calamity, sudden danger, peril” > Greek peria “to try, to attempt, to experience”
When were you ever in sudden danger–and how did you survive? When did you ever try something, attempt something, experience something that involved, well, fear? (Here’s where the unique stories will emerge and where we’ll all be able to connect: who hasn’t tried something new and shaken in their boots?!)
FRIGHT (n.) Old English fyrhtu “dread, horrible sight, fear and trembling”
What do you dread the most? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?
HORROR (n.) Latin horror “dread, veneration, religious awe” > Latin horrere “to shudder or bristle with fear” > Latin eris “hedgehog”
Who knew that horror originally meant “religious awe”? In that sense, when have you ever been in the presence of someone or something that has made you think twice about your place in the universe or made you shudder in the face of its immense awe-someness and power? How are you like a hedgehog, rolling yourself into a ball for protection?
TERROR (n.) Old French terreur “great fear, dread, alarming news”
What was that alarming news you received? How did you respond?
Here’s your first story of fear:
Trying something new is always scary. It’s that unknown that causes you to lose your breath. It’s funny that you ask about fear now because lately I’ve started getting more in tune with things that paralyze me, more attuned to what my triggers are.
There’s the fear that’s an excitement about knowing that you can do or not do something, but really wanting to do it, even though you don’t know what could happen. Then there’s a reactionary fear that takes over your entire body, a paralyzing fear.
Me, I’m an overthinker, so I try to rationalize away things that are scary. A funny example was when I was at the campfire with the freshmen at the beginning of school this year. They were all roasting their marshmallows and telling scary stories–some where made up, some weren’t. And I thought I’d tell one. But I shouldn’t have had to psyche myself up to tell it–I mean, they’re 9th graders and I’m in the my early thirties. But I psyched myself out. Eventually, I told them this story:
“Maybe two years ago, my dad was going through his divorce and it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to come stay with me when things were getting a little chaotic. And sometimes he’d come over at odd times, knocking on my door like at 1am saying he needed to go get a car from his ex-wife, things like that. One time he did this, I just texted him, “Go home.” Seriously–it was 1am! I heard what I thought were his footsteps walking away. I have dogs in my room and they didn’t really stir through any of this.
“The next morning, I’m leaving for work and I notice that the breezeway is locked. I thought that was weird and texted my dad, who said he hadn’t locked it–because he had never stopped over!
“I obviously went to work and told a few co-workers, feeling very weird. They said, ‘Well, that’s funny, because there’s been a guy walking around the neighborhood lately going into people’s houses and standing over them in bed.’ That’s when I started to rationalize! He couldn’t have gotten in because the breezeway entrance was locked and everything else was locked.
“Of course I got home and, yes, the garage and side door were open. I hadn’t noticed that before. So now I’m thinking that this person very well could have been walking around in my house while I was sleeping. Standing over my bed.”
“Suffice it to say, the freshmen were scared . . .”