I must not Fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my Fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
– Bene Gesserit litany against fear
I carry this Dune quote in my wallet. I don’t pull it out as much as I should, but it’s a good thing to remember – This too shall pass. I look to Buddhism for a lot of inspiration when I get emotionally or spiritually stuck, and boy howdy is Fear one of those things that keeps cropping up for me. Fear I’ll never be good enough. Fear that good work I’ve done in the past was beginner’s luck. Fear that I’ll be too old, too poor, too… whatever to complete this journey. Fear that a recruiter will read this and whisper in a sotto voice “Psyy-chhoooo” and pass over my resume.
You get the picture. There is good news though: the Fear is nearly always temporary. It is often unfounded. And most of the time can be overcome. Now, this isn’t really good news if you’re in the middle of it because Fear is a powerful force. In one Buddhist story, a man falls in a river and grabs a hold of a large rock in a rapids. He clings to the rock being whipped around and bashed against the river bed. Unbeknownst to him, the rapids end a little ways down the river where it smooths out and becomes still, but he’s so afraid of the unknown being worse, he’s unwilling to risk it being better.
I was in a glut of fear the other day, and I found a fairly effective, if temporary, way to deal with it. In the history of religions and philosophy, there’s a lot of personification of ills of the soul and mind. Succubi stand as demons of lust, for example. There’s also a large tradition of names holding power over things. In fact, in some orthodox Jewish traditions, one cannot speak God’s name nor write it down as it has the potential to wield power over Him (sort of a bad taste maneuver, really). I got to thinking about this, and it seems to me the power is in the naming of the ill. If we know what it is and personify it or imagine it somehow, then it’s no longer this amorphous blob just hanging over our lives. Working in visual symbols, I think, helps us tackle an intangible problem more effectively. Or at least it feels less like striking at mid-air.
Along these lines, here’s what I do. Usually, I can at least name what’s upsetting me – indecision, fear of failure, anxiety, etc. I grab a post-it pad and try to visualize what it feels like. It may be the gamer in me, but I like creating demonic creatures out of them. Sometimes I just let the pen make shapes until I see something I like, other times I know that it feels like a shape or material and start with that. Whatever it is, I trap that bastard down on the pad, making it as grotesque as I need it to be, then write its name down next to it. It’s amazing how much it felt like the I had “captured” it on the page, pulling it from my own body to rot on the paper.
Yeah, it’s a little New Age-y. But in my opinion, whatever works. It’s not a solution, but more of a salve until you get past whatever it is that is bothering you. Try it out, and see if it works for you. If I get really bold, I’ll add some of my own to the gallery pages I’m setting up for my main website.
Cheers, and happy animating.