With Halloween just around the corner, we thought it’d be timely to address fear. Though it’s an emotion we all experience, there are benefits in learning new ways to handle it. Read on to see what we mean.
By Aaisha Haykal
The words “scare” and “scared,” often bring to mind an emotion that one should avoid and run away from. While writing this post, I had conversations with people about the types of “scared” we can feel throughout our lives. We can be “scared” about an assignment, public speaking, a health diagnosis, or a life and death situation, just to name a few. In all of these cases, our reactions and emotions can make us freeze up, cry, be quiet, or a combination of other anxiety-induced reactions.
The word scared is seen in phrases in popular vernacular such as “scaredy-cat” and the line, “I ain’t never scared”, which is repeated in the song “Never Scared” (2003) by American hip hop recording artist Bone Crusher. These two phrases evoke opposite feelings associated with the word “scared”. The phrase “Scaredy-cat” is one of shame and cowardice, while “Never Scared” is a boastful remark on one’s bravery and toughness. While I do not condone the violence or behavior that is within the song, its message of standing up for yourself and your values can impart an important lesson. This interpretation of steadfastness and bravery comes from knowing your worth and protecting the ones that you care about. Nevertheless, I would be remiss to not point out that this song is rife with toxic masculinity and ideas about what it means to be a man according to social and cultural viewpoints. Thus, this skews the relationships that men and women have with each other, with same-gender non-sexual relationships and self-esteem. The song implies that the best reaction to being scared is to resort to violence and to take this out on others, as opposed to processing your emotions and working through them nonviolently.
In this year of 2020, where we are faced with a global health pandemic, an economic crisis, a continuation of state-sanctioned, institutional, and domestic violence based on race, sex, gender, religion, and sexuality; an election that gets more frustrating and depressing; and a myriad of personal and professional issues, it can be easy to be scared for the future and our place in it. In these situations, one has to consider what they can control within their circle of influence. Furthermore, it is important to meet and talk with people who are working through the same issue(s), so that you feel empowered in your life and not feel adrift. If it is a more personal issue, there are services offered by the College of Charleston such as the CofC Counseling Center or direct to consumer services.
In my life, I have been scared multiple times, but here are three situations
1: Falling: When I was a pre-teen I was riding my bike down a big hill and there was a curve in the road that I did not expect, so I went careening down the embankment. During this experience, the wheel on my bike broke, I scraped a knee, and I cried mostly out of shock rather than bodily harm. This was because I was prepared for safety as I was wearing a helmet, which helped to cushion my fall. From this, I was able to learn that preparation can help to alleviate any future bumps and bruises.
2: Traveling: I love to travel, whether it is exploring my current locale or new places. However, each trip comes with a portion of me being scared, in regard to, being in a new space with different people; and navigating new transportation options and geographies. In 2008, when I took my first plane ride from Washington, D.C. to CA for a professional conference (the American Library Association). Before I boarded, I was in full-blown tears on the phone with my Mom about getting on this flight. There was a myriad of reasons for these feelings, including the actual flying experience, going from east to west coast, and then attending the conference, which would be my first professional conference (reflecting on it I was probably suffering from a mild case of imposter syndrome). On the phone, my Mom told me and what I hope to impart to you in brief, is that you have to think about what awaits you on the other side, that although the in-between part may be troublesome and may have some turbulence, but that you will enjoy what is on the other side, thus, you just have to push through and you will succeed. Ultimately, she was right; this trip was a great experience and I was able to network with individuals that I am still in contact with today. In terms of flying, I have come to terms with using this technology to get me from point A to point B and I focus on the activities and events that will take place once I arrive. Additionally, I plan out my visits and routes in advance, so I will be in control of my time and agenda.
3: Harassment: Being a woman of short stature, I have faced sexual and physical harassment, which has placed me in situations where I have felt scared and unsafe. In these situations, I have escaped without physical harm, but it has emotionally-scarred me and made me anxious, paranoid, and hyper-aware of my surroundings and who I talk to. Processing these emotions will be a lifelong challenge, but I work to make sure that they do not make me withdraw from living life. One of the ways that I worked on this is by listening to podcasts, which aim to normalize feeling all of your emotions, including the ones that society tells you to “get over”. These episodes have allowed me to see that I am not alone and provide strategies for coping.
These three situations demonstrate that the emotions that come with being scared is complex and pushes us to see new dimensions of ourselves. I’m originally from Western New York, and it is time of year where the trees change color from shades of green to a kaleidoscope of color that includes reds, oranges, and yellows; and then they fall to the ground and become new life as food for the earth and shelter for animals. Thus, it is this yearly cycle that the trees expect, as they realize that this change is necessary and provides room for growth and they trust that the leaves will be back in the spring. We need to be more like trees, in that we trust that we will survive, thrive, and achieve despite and because we were scared.
 Salter, Michael. “The Problem with a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity.” The Atlantic, 27 Feb. 2019, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/02/toxic-masculinity-history/583411/. Accessed 20 October 2020.
 Brown, Emmanuel. “(10/365) 14 Years Later, Bone Crusher Is Still Making Me Hurt Myself At the Gym.” Medium, 12 May 2017, medium.com/@Mannyb89/10-365-14-years-later-bone-crusher-is-still-making-me-hurt-myself-at-the-gym-d5dec844f76a. Accessed 20 October 2020.
Aaisha N. Haykal is the manager of archival services at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC. In this position, she is responsible for collection development, public programming, instruction, reference, and administrative duties. Her research interests include African American history, digital preservation, censorship, and community archiving. She conducts workshops on preserving family histories, community archiving, and memory work and teaches courses on these issues through the online learning platform, Preserve This.