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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Good Fear Bad Fear

Fear is a very real thing . . . and something to be respected. The catch-phrase “No Fear” might sell clothing, but there is good fear and bad fear.

Good fear can save one’s life. For instance, if you walk up to pat a black mamba on the head because you have no fear of it, chances are the snake will slither back to its den and you will slither to the hospital or morgue. Good fear is the kind that recognizes danger, assesses the threat and/or risk level, and prompts action based on a careful, prudent decision. When climbing some pretty lofty mountains, I have felt a fear-tingling sensation when facing a route fraught with a high degree of danger. At times, healthy fear brought me to the decision that I should either find a different route or head back downhill. Fear, acknowledged and respected, can save one a heap of trouble.

Bad fear is when something can be so intimidating that it robs one of potentially life-enhancing experiences. This can happen when the fear is irrational, or the object of dread is overrated due to a lack of or inadequate assessment. An example of unhealthy fear is refusing to take any hikes in any wilderness area because wild, human-eating animals live there. I once had a young friend refuse to get out of my car at a rest stop at night to go to the bathroom because we were in the mountains where bears prowl in the dark. There are likely many bad fears that really won’t affect one’s life that dramatically . . . unless you REALLY have to go to the bathroom. But there are others that if addressed/confronted can lead to very positive life experiences.

In 1992 I stood alone in Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory talking to a grizzly bear thirty yards away. I had read just about every book on grizzlies written in English . . . which might have been what saved me. It could have gone either way, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. If I had had a bad fear of bears, Mr. Grizzer and I would never have had our conversation. A good fear of them caused me to prepare with diligence and then act appropriately when said ursus appeared on the scene.

Good fear – bad fear. The distinction is important.

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