Monday, June 22, 2020

What Scares Me The Most (by Patty Blount)

All month, we "Outsiders" are blogging about fear. 

Oh, boy, what a broad category this is....

I've written novels that scared me (Some Boys, Someone I Used To Know). 

I've done things that scared me (traveled alone to a place I'd never been before). 

I'm living through things I never expected, like this presidency, and this pandemic. 


One of the things that scares me is how utterly paralyzing fear is. (she says, unironically). I hate feeling afraid. I avoid it, which means I frequently avoid doing the things that create fear in me. Like travel, for example. I have a faulty sense of direction and getting lost is terrifying. When my debut novel was about to come out, I'd been invited to a few events in New York City. 

I grew up in Queens, New York. The City was just over the bridge, a fifteen minute train ride away. Yet I hardly ever went there because I was afraid to go alone. I am like a tourist in New York City. At last summer's RWA conference, my pal from Montana, author Kari Lynn Dell, had to navigate the subway system to get us back to our hotel. I was useless.

I'd been invited to South Carolina becuase Some Boys was up for an award from SCASL, the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. I almost didn't attend because I'd have to go alone. 

Thankfully, with GPS technology on our phones, I can avoid getting lost now and that cuts my travel fears in half. 

But travel is only one thing I fear.

Fear itself is a basic emotion. In fact, I would go so far as to call it an instinct, a biological response, rather than an emotion. We're faced with danger, we either flee it or we fight it. It's a base response, one that every living being on earth comes with, factory-installed. 

Our species, the human species, also comes equipped with the ability to reason, to make decisions, to think. Sadly, too many of us allow others to think for us -- which results in something psychologists and sociologists called "group think." Group think is when everyone allows individual thought or expression of thought to take a back seat to what the group expects. Consensus becomes more important than thought itself. Group think can become dangerous because it often precludes what's moral or right because of the group's goal. Group think is why we have kids who stand by while others bully. Group think is why we (still) have systems in place that are racist. 

It's also closely related to "mob mentality." Mob mentality is a type of group think that's ACUTE, meaning it's often whipped into a frenzy catalyzed by some situation. Mob mentality is probably the closest our species comes to animal pack behavior. It's why other kids join in when a bully chooses a target. 

I find myself living in a state of perpetual and prolonged fear -- something like FEAR STANDBY. I can go from from afraid to panicked instantly because my fear response has been cultivated and stoked by a self-serving president who appeals to that most primitive of instincts in all of us. 

I'm afraid that Americans are losing sight of what America means: liberty and justice for all --  FOR ALL. That's the part the group/the mob wants us to forget. There are no exclusions. ALL OF US have rights. We cannot deny rights to ANY group, even if that group practices something we despise -- and get to call ourselves AMERICANS. What I am most afraid of is too many of my neighbors, my fellow citizens, will get so caught up in the group think this president stirs to remember the very definition of America.

Living in FEAR STANDY mode, as I have for the past 4 years, is taking its toll. 

This is why I write. 

When I write, there is no COVID, no racism, no misogyny. There is no Fox News, no moronic president who refuses to wear a face mask during a pandemic and calls Nazis 'very fine people.' There is no us vs. them EXCEPT protagonists and antagonists in stories who try their best to do what's right, what's ethical -- even when it goes against the crowd. 

What frightens you? How do you manage that fear? Tell me in the comments! 







4 comments:

  1. YES! That last paragraph. I know exactly what you mean about travel, too. :)

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  2. The older you get (I'm 72), the less you fear because you've survived more and more. I remember lying in bed waiting for the living room floor to fall into the cellar in the first home we owned. That was back in the 1970s. I remember being afraid I'd be a lousy dad, but my daughters are in their mid-thirties now and still love me. I'm not trying to minimize your (or anyone's) fear, just trying to share a bit of hope and wisdom.

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    1. I see that happening in me as I get older. What used to terrify me now seems silly.

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