The two big news stories since I moved from Missouri have been: anti-Semitic lunatic shoots up the Jewish Community Center, and cops shoot teenager who is black and unarmed. Is that where I am from? Well, yes. It is a place that struggles with fear in its own ways.
We will always have trouble with people in authority and how they scare themselves and other people.
Terrible things happen when people get scared. I was scared of Kansas City’s east side, the black side of town, until I went there for work, until I knew and loved so many people who lived there. I’m still scared when alone in unfamiliar neighborhoods that look uncared for, neighborhoods where kids aren’t out playing or there is no one to see what happens to you.
I am scared of being alone, although I like being alone. I am scared of not having enough money. I am scared of falling down steps. I am scared of thinking I am being funny but people are offended or think I am weird. I am scared of not having enough time to think. I am afraid of looking back on my life and thinking I was a coward.
When I get scared, I watch a lot of television. I make a plan that involves begin to list things that are wrong with other people in comparison to what is right with me. Being a hard worker, or laid back, or smart, or ignorant, really, anything will work. I used to work a lot with logic, having faith in the logic of the world, the logic of other people, or even in playing the odds, how likely is that to happen? Also, I think about how to make myself so okay that I will never need anyone else and then no one can ever disappoint me again.
These strategies are actually rather effective and thus it is hard to stop.
When cops get scared, really bad things happen. Either cops are scared, or they are stupid. They know people hate them and want to kill them. They have a lot of fear to manage.
When teenagers get scared, and they are scared almost all the time because you may not recall but their whole selves are construction zones where heavy shit can fall and they aren’t even the foremen, usually. Teenagers who are black have particular and real reasons to be scared. Especially the ones who live in neighborhoods that give them PTSD. This is still gunshot season, until about the first frost. Then things calm down until Christmas when people have to deal with their families, or realize they don’t have money for presents they want to give. And then you know the people who are supposed to protect you are people who even if you want to, you have trouble trusting.
Really bad things can happen when teenagers get scared. Not necessarily the things people think of, running away, withdrawing, but often counterphobic stuff like stealing a car or borrowing a gun or cussing out a teacher or throwing a book at her. (Said book was nowhere near aerodynamic enough to be anything more than a gesture, don’t worry.)
I think scared people are helped by sitting in a quiet room with someone who is either not afraid, or pretending not to be. I am very good at the latter, not to brag. Posture is important, too, that is, sitting next to someone, side by side, is usually good. Lots of quiet is good.
I have plenty of fear experience, both of the average type, like, I am too afraid to move to New York, which is something I still think regularly although it’s hard to have faith in now. And the pathological type of the anxiety disorder, which is a different species.
For religious people, repetition helps. Chanting and praying the hours and ritual helps. Singing helps. Letting yourself feel your feelings helps, but this is very hard.
For many fears between people, conversation about food and annoying parents or annoying children helps. The weather is a place to begin.
I had no great interest in the movie “Big Fish,” but I remember a scene with a big black dog. Someone had to confront this very scary dog, and when they did, the dog ran away. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes bullies don’t back down. Sometimes they beat the shit out of you. Sometimes they kill you. You may be better off, though, working on your happy medium of not running away, not becoming aggressive, something in between, whether it is jokes or silence or shifting your weight.