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Defending Your Life

May 29, 2015

I want to write this entry before it totally disappears into the aether that is sleep deprivation. Defending Your Life is a 1991 Albert Brooks movie where he plays the character Daniel Miller who dies and the afterlife isn’t all choirs and angels. Actually the afterlife is kinda like here only you have a set amount of time you’re there and you defend your life and the way to ascend or become smarter than the average human is just to conquer your fears and anxieties. If not then you’re sent back to Earth and have to live as another person all over again with no memory of your previous life and eventually conquer your fears. I seem to recall the question being posed within the movie as to what happens to people that never succeed in beating their fears and can never ascend being thrown away or some sort. Maybe that’s my memory haze.

Anyway, I really like this movie and I thought about it last night during one of my more contemplative moments because of the anxiety thing and I realize how much I’ve yet to get over in terms of being afraid. It’s not just adult fears that have plagued me my whole life, but childhood fears as well. Flying? Totally afraid of that. I have no idea where that came from, though. See, most anxieties you can usually put into two categories: you either picked it up from a bad experience and were conditioned that way or it’s a learned behavior you picked up from your parents. The trouble is I’ve never flown nor have my parents ever been afraid of flying, to my knowledge. So where the hell did it come from?

Rollercoasters? Yeah, I’m terrified of them. But I have a good reason for that: my dad tricked me into getting on one when I was young and it sorta scarred me for life. However, even before that I was afraid of them. And again, neither of my parents were ever afraid of them. Where the fuck did that come from in the first place?! Thing is I’ve never been afraid of driving, or at least I wasn’t until I started having panic attacks. Also a little afraid of the dark, which I’ll write about more in-depth in my next entry, but I at least have an excuse on that one: the dark has always been sort of a primal, base level fear for humans since we’ve lived in caves. I get that one.

But back to the movie, in the movie Daniel’s shown 9 days from his life and he had an advocate or a defense attorney played affably sleazy by Rip Torn, because of course he is. For those who don’t know who Rip Torn is, he’s an actor that’s made affably sleazy characters his schtick. And we’ll just forget he was ever in Freddy Got Fingered. His job is to defend Daniel and he does, for the most part by showing a spin to the anxious scenarios like Daniel not jumping on an invest opportunity in Casio which he turned down to invest in cows…that apparently lost their teeth or something, he was never sure.

And the time he was on a snowmobile and had to crawl to safety, that one seemed iffy at first, but the fact that he never got on one after that bad experience made it make more sense, because as I already stated: we do base our anxieties partly on past experience. I’m just struggling to find any past experience that justifies my fears and anxieties. At least in childhood. In adulthood and partly in my teenage years I get those. Fear of talking to women? Check. Fear that I’ll be alone? Check. etc. Those fears are very real and make sense. Rollercoasters and airplanes…not so much.

I was going over this with my therapist on Tuesday and I pretty much came to this conclusion: your brain is stupid. Sure, it’s capable of building wondrous things like the LHC or going to space, but as far as processing real danger as opposed to fake danger? Totally stupid. It doesn’t differentiate between a real threat like a lion or a bear or just asking out the person you fancy. We process it the same way and those of us with a strong sense of fear and things that make you fearful, like me, really have trouble dealing with the fake dangers we put ourselves through every day.

I kept thinking about this movie because it has a lot of relevancy to me these days like wondering how I’d defend myself given how I’ve lived my life. I’d totally be sent back because I still can’t ask someone out until it’s too late and things no longer matter to me. I hate unsure settings and will actively avoid them because of my anxiety. If I don’t at least have an idea of knowing what I’m getting into I just won’t do it. I wasn’t always this averse to it because I used to hang out with my friend and we’d sometimes do spontaneous things where we’d go traveling and such. In fact, one of my best memories is of the day where me, his girlfriend at the time, him, and their friend just went out traveling with no plan in mind.

So I wasn’t completely the, “I hate unknowns,” person writing this entry. But I find myself hating this side of me that just has so much fear of even kind of living a little. I used to describe myself as the walking dead simply because things must be a certain way before taking the plunge. Granted, you could say it’s kept me alive this whole time, but it hasn’t enabled me to enjoy existence. My anxiety comes from the fear of dying suddenly but honestly, I could be okay with dying if I’d accomplished half of what I’ve wanted to accomplish and it’s only the fear of it not working out that’s kept me from doing these things…which causes more anxiety because I haven’t done them yet.

Yeah, I have the fear of success, too. I’m really an amazing person. Truly amazing and stupid. So, I’m going to do my damnedest to sort this particular knot out and get over it. How? You ask? No fucking clue, but trying anything’s better than my current situation where anxiety kind of rules me. I’m getting better, but as you see…it’s not complete. I mean, I know I’m going always have anxiety, you have to. Anxiety keeps you from being stupid, but just once I’d just like to let go of the really stupid anxieties I have that really have no basis in reality.

As for the movie, I totally recommend it. It’s funny, it’s witty, and it’s got a good message: live in fear and you’re not really living or enjoying yourself. And at present, that’s me.

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