Having the fear, is like a wearing a pair of glasses and strange constricting coat. It effects how you see and feel in the world. Its odourless and colourless, can’t be touched or tasted, yet can pervade our lives. It taps into our most primitive reflexes, to fly or stay and fight, echoing evolutionary eons of life or death encounters.
For the last few weeks I was wearing the fear after my incident in Mashad. I tried to fight it, consciously rationalising and theorising, but it was no use, a patch of waste ground similar to the one I was attacked on, or a couple of Iranian youths on a motorbike, and my insides would clench, pulse quicken, my grip would tighten and my eyes would start flitting for an escape route.
Despite what I told myself, I had little control. Every time a similar environment, or prop from the incident appeared, it provoked my body into responding in a similar way, this then coloured my rational perception and through narrowed eyes real dangers seemed to lurk, justifying and feeding my irrational feelings.
One, albeit quite serious, incident and the world looked different. The world hadn’t changed, but I had. I now had a body that still remembered the fight, and a mind that knew first hand my potential vulnerability. My mind I could console with logic, but my body wasn’t so easily convinced. It remembered and relived each time it was presented with reminiscent stimulus.
Wearing the vestments of fear changes one’s experience of the world dramatically. And, try as I might to be a big man and ignore it, they are difficult to shake.
As our route moved westward, skirting across the Iranian desert towards Tehran and then north-west to Tabriz, the the landscape changed, so did the people. Buildings and land ceased to echo the waste grounds of Mashad and its surrounds. In the north-east, Turkic blood shapes the faces of reluctant Iranian inhabitants, rather than the Afghan, Persian, Paki and Turkemi melange of the Mashadi. As a result my adrenal glands relaxed, and my fearful vestments grew lighter.
I’m still not as care-free as I was before the incident, and I wonder if I ever really will be. But I’m gradually managing to keep my primitive fears in check, and make sure that they don’t restrict my perception of what is still, in theory at least, the same wonderful world that I was eager to embrace prior to my encounter.
Writing this post I can’t help thinking about how much of our lives are coloured by what we’re afraid of. And, rather than spouting some easy rhetoric about hoping back on horses, and doing what scares us, I’ll say that a little bit of fear is OK. Its natural to be fearful of some things, we’re genetically programmed to be so. I think, however, its important to recognise what scares the bejaysus out of us, and to rationally at least try and understand and control it. But also to accept that we may not be able to do so.
Before leaving on this little jaunt, I wrote about fear, from the other side- the fear of the unknown that inhibits. I reasoned that I shouldn’t be afraid of what I can’t control or predict. I still stand by that, in theory. I didn’t let the unlikely spectre of getting attacked stop me from leaving home, and I don’t plan on letting the residual effects of one interfere with my journey home either.
Still, some things are easier said than done.