All her life, Sophie had been told that the best way to deal with fears was to tackle them head-on. Never would she have imagined that it might mean knocking them out with a saute pan.
When her Fears came knocking at her door, she quickly shut it in their faces. She couldn’t even explain how she knew the colorful little monsters outside were Fears. Maybe it was the clammy dread that spread throughout her. Maybe it was just instinct.
One thing was certain: It was suddenly hard to breathe. She felt as if one of those creatures sat on her chest, making every breath heavy and labored.
In an attempt to calm herself, Sophie leaned against the door and took deep controlled breaths. She tried to remember as much as possible of the scene outside. There had been seven or eight adult Fears, some of them with smaller in their arms. Seven, maybe eight major ones. That wasn’t too bad. After all, most people have a lot of fears, some less vivid than others, but definitely more than a few.
One of her greatest fears was her fear of heights. That must be the hairy sky-blue monster with the lanky build at the very front of the group. Another extreme fear was spiders, and predictably there was a black monster with four legs and four arms next to Heights. She had also seen Not Being Good Enough, a slimy pale yellow monster, a little shorter than the other two.
She had to admit she had no idea what the other Fears were, but she had a feeling she would find out soon enough. She couldn’t stay inside forever.
Somehow, her determination made her stop shaking. After a few more deep breaths, she had a plan. She grabbed a pan from the stove and positioned herself behind the door. With a last steeling breath, she opened the door – just enough for one of the Fears to get through – and waited.
A black creature ran through the door. Without thinking, she swung the pan and hit it over the head. With a loud thud, Spiders fell to the floor. She slammed the door shut and locked it again, unable to look away from the black furry thing that lay spread-eagled on the carpet. The pan raised above her head, ready to attack, she stepped closer. She prodded one of the four legs with her foot and Spiders stirred. It opened first one, then another and then the rest of its dozen eyes. When its gaze fell on Sophie, it raised its many arms over its face and started whimpering. It shook from head to toe, obviously at least as afraid of Sophie as Sophie was of the Fear.
Sophie hesitated. The small monster looked pitiful. How could she hurt something this defenseless? She bent down and took one of the creature’s hands. With an encouraging smile, she gently pushed it away from the Fear’s face. Somehow, she had lost all fear of it when she had seen it lying on the floor. Whispering encouragements, she peeled away all the Fear’s hands until they were able to look at each other.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
Spiders looked at her with wide eyes but seemed unable to speak.
“Are the other Fears as harmless as you are?”
“Not all of them,” the creature whimpered.
“What do you mean?”
“Heights, for example, is harmless, a little easy to scare -”
“Wait? Fears get scared?” She couldn’t believe it.
The monster sat up, leaning on two of the four arms, the other two folded in front of its body.
“Of course, they do!” The voice was no longer shaking, but determined. “Everyone is afraid of something. Most of the things people are afraid of are harmless, like Heights and me, but other Fears are dangerous and can get your hurt or even killed.”
“You mean, some of those monsters out there are here to kill me?”
The creature shook its head, making the many eyes swirl around. “Face them, just like you faced me. I promise, none of them will attack. Some of them will try to persuade you to do or think something, but as long as you don’t give in to self-doubt or temptation, you’ll be okay.”
Spiders nodded encouragingly, and Sophie stood up, bracing herself for whatever would happen. She wasn’t sure that the monsters were as harmless as Spiders had said. Slowly she walked towards the door and opened it a gap. She peered out to find that the Fears were still there. Ignoring them apparently didn’t make them go away.
When she let them in, the monsters walked over the threshold, introduced themselves – even though she knew exactly which Fear she was facing the moment she looked at them – and then walked in and sat down around Spiders. Some of them made her tremble inside, but she kept a determinately calm face. She couldn’t let them scare her. And after a while, they didn’t. After a while, she understood that by facing her fears she was already less afraid.
That day, Sophie learned not only to face her fears but also to live with them. Over the years, some of the Fears left, saying that they no longer belonged to her. Every once in a while, usually after something happened to her, new Fears showed up at her doorstep and moved in.
The fear of Not Being Good Enough stayed with her for a very, very long time, always trying to make her doubt herself. While he never went away, Sophie learned to get better at ignoring him and dealing with situations despite her fear.
After a long and happy life, Sophie felt she was nearing the end of her days. She was surrounded by friends and family, as well as the Fears of her final days. Some had been with her for her whole life; some were new companions. She waved her grandchildren closer and whispered into their ears the story of the Fears. Because someday, all of us have to face our fears – and as they say, it’s best to face them head-on, no matter how literal we might have to take it.