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  • Writer's picturefrederique STREF

New fears

An unfortunate, ridiculous anecdote that you are probably also familiar with. While walking in my neighbourhood, at the bend in the road, I realise that the person walking towards me about 50 metres away immediately changes pavement when he sees me.

Okay, I've grown older, I've put on weight, but I don't consider myself to be either monstrous or repulsive yet, to initiate such a behaviour... That moment of surprise when a monster appears in its fascinating horror could have made Alfred Hitchcock swoon! And faced with the impending catastrophe, this person accelerates the pace of his walk, turns his head to look at a fence as we pass each other +/- 10 meters apart... Wow!!! What happened?

Do you remember the fears you were already carrying before March 2020?

Everyone can recall certain fears related to specific incidents in their history.

The fear of the original event, even if it happened decades ago, is lodged in the body where it originated. This very real physiological reaction is uncontrollable and gives rise to a fight, flight or shock reaction. And the other more insidious, disturbing fears, the fear of what others will think, the fear of not being liked or even loveable. Fear of not being good enough, fear of ridicule, fear of being alone. Fear of change, or lack of change, fear that no one will really see who I am or realise who I am, fear of being excluded, of not being accepted, fear of the other, of their approval or disapproval.... I remember a remark from one of my uncles who, when I said as a child that I was afraid, asked me "ah well, but of what? of the big beast inside your shirt? Many times, I looked inside my shirt and saw no beast .... But maybe it was me I was afraid of? Fear reveals something about us! Can we look at it? and recognise in ourselves the fear of the enemy, of the stranger, of the monster, of the different? .... Fear of living, fear of dying, fear of misery...

It is relatively easy to say to a friend or even a stranger "I am afraid of dogs because I had a bad experience", it is much more difficult to say "I am a bit afraid of meeting new people". Not only because it is less socially acceptable, but also because most of the time we carry these fears with us unconsciously. We may have a vague sense of unease or insecurity, but often we are unwilling (or unable) to name that fear, share it or bring it to light. So, we end up carrying these heavy shadows around. They are hidden deep enough that we don't have to face them, and remain vivid enough to be triggered at any time. Whether it's "that dog is going to bite me", "that person is going to break my heart" or "that person didn't answer my text". It is by welcoming one's story, naming one's fears within the professional framework of introspection, with a certain amount of listening, that speech is liberated.

We would like to be prepared for what is going to happen - which, of course, is illusory. And before we know it, we find ourselves in a state of hyper-vigilance, waiting for the next thing to go wrong, even if we are not aware of it. This state of being traps our vitality, spontaneity and joy. It keeps us cramped, under the false pretext of protecting ourselves, more and more closed in on ourselves.

What if, instead of "apprehending disaster", we could still be curious about the surprising things that might await us around the corner? The stages of our lives are often initiated by an encounter, a "chance", a spontaneous conversation, an exchange, a listening, a look, a sharing, sometimes very brief, that changes nothing, but changes everything.

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