The Image of Fear

Isn’t the mind an interesting thing? One of my guilty pleasures in the past was a show called Fear Factor. It was always amazing to me how one contestant would be covered in rats with a facial expression like she was in the library while another contestant was freaking out just watching it. I can only pin the difference between the two to what is going on in their minds.

When I was 6 my dad brought home two cardboard refrigerator boxes and put them on the back patio for my sister and I to use as forts. My sister immediately started talking about how she would come over to my fort to have tea parties and I would come over to hers for tea parties… well the budding “man” in me was not going to have any of that.

Dad gave us each a box of crayons to decorate our forts with, so I took a preemptive strike and decorated my walls with all manner of scary things – things no girl would EVER want to have a tea party in the presence of. Ghosts, vampires, graveyards, and all manner of skeletons covered every square inch of the interior of my fort. I was sure the trauma of my terrifying images would be enough to keep my sister and her girlish parties away for good!


Arlene had a traumatic experience at the hand of her high school biology teacher. Arlene was late for Biology just about every day – you see the class she was coming from was as far away from biology as you could get and still be on the high school grounds. So everyday she would come in late, and every day her teacher would give her a warning. He simply told her if she continued to be late she would be sorry.

Then finally the day of the undefined punishment arrived. The teacher took her to a back room, flipped on the light and took her in. There where three tarantulas in cages on a shelf in this small closet, and while she was looking at them in revulsion, the teacher stepped out, locked the door, and turned off the lights.

Arlene screamed and pounded and clawed and scratched against the wood door, but she stayed in there the entire class period–terrified of the images trapped in her mind.

When the teacher came and let her out, her hands were bloody and bruised, her face streaked with tears. She fell into a sobbing heap on the floor and was sent home from school to recover.

I’m not sure she has recovered yet. As she told me the story I could see the strain in her hands. She clenched and unclenched her fists and the emotion coming from her told me this was still a very alive emotional memory in Arlene’s life.

In my mind, of course, I was sure this experience wouldn’t reduce me to a jumbled mess. The spiders were in covered cages, they weren’t going to get her. I was sure it wouldn’t have the same effect on me. Surely not. Surely my calm analytical mind would carry the day…

Of course I never went into my fort again. I was terrified of that place.

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