Why I Fear Secret Agents
More examples of my so-called “irrational” fears which motivate me in daily life to semi-debilitating anxiety, overall grumpiness and cynicism, and intermittent irritable melancholia:
– that humans will address me at places like the grocery store or post office
– that strangers will wave, gesture or ask something of me
– that conversation will consist of small talk or reportage, weather or politics, movies or television or the like
– that people will form lines
– that people will speak to my wife, not to discuss important subjects, but to be near her
– that I will be subjected to dismal vocabularies and poor grammar in checkout lanes
– that wealthy people exude entitlement
– that people are attracted to my wife and see fit to feed their attraction on her
– that drivers, pedestrians, etc., are not paying sufficient attention to their surround to avoid inconveniencing one another
– that I will be forced to wait on people rather than things
– that strangers will feign friendliness or personability
– that people are lonely
– that people will talk even when they don’t know what they’re talking about
– facile, banal, pretentious, crass, or just-to-fill-silence sounds or speech
– poor music at public places
– strangers that look at other people
– that people will look lustfully at my wife
– that mean, arrogant or afraid people will hurt my children
These things come up because my wife’s line of work involves events and occasions that thrust us into the company of unknown persons. Also there are children’s school events, and the family’s penchants for going to public places – restaurants, stores, parks, etc. And then the unavoidable (in our situation) necessities of garner food, gas, books, medicines, etc.
Each go-round, dinner out, art opening, bowling adventure, doctor’s visit and the like spawn this grimaced panic and negativity/cynicism/paranoiac expecting-the-worst in me which truly annoys and bothers my wife, interfering with her own process of attempting to enjoy or at least “make the best of” apparently unavoidable situations that arise – in her opinion they offer possibilities as positive as they might be negative – and rely on, at least to some extent, our own outlook and will, agency and action, for resultant experience.
It is this “some extent” I would like to address.
But firstly – expecting the worst allows for a sense of relief and even gratitude when the occasions are not so grueling, involve no meddlesome characters or inane chatterboxes, process people smoothly and peaceably and so on. Given what I have observed, endured in life (including my own self), public appearance without some impingement of others is quite rare, so bracing oneself offers an opportunity to be surprised.
At first I thought perhaps I was neurotic, paranoid of the outside world to an abnormal degree, frightened unnecessarily by elements seemingly beyond my control (knowing that even my heartbeat and breathing feels only nominally up to me) – that I had an overdeveloped or trauma-induced phobia of the unknown, of change and such things implicit in our world.
But this is not the case. I love extremes and discoveries – fantastics in geography, weather, even cultures and climates. I delight in new music, literature, arts and aspects of the natural world. Even exotic or unexpected animals don’t frighten me too much. No, it is only ever circumstances in which there is the possibility of encountering humans (unknown, or sometimes even positively known) at a personal level that wig the bejeezus out of me and deliver me psychophysiologically to panics, dis-ease and serious discomfort.
The only natural element I fear similarly is the prospect of my own death or suffering and cessation of my loved ones.
So what I fear, really, is the company or vicinity of unknown beings with agency. The “some extent” my own strength, choice and abilities amount to in a room- or theater- or store- or park-ful of human persons feels/seems/appears tremendously miniscule to me: if we all count as ONE entity of volition and instinct in any given setting – my personal power of self-protection always amounts to an extremely small fraction (1/200 – grocery store?, 1/400 – zoo?, 1/300 – library?, 1/infinity on a walk or bicycle ride?, 1/100 at an art opening or museum, 1/20th at a café and so on)
Bad odds for safekeeping.
Any one of those “others” speaking, looking, acting offensively, invasively, accostingly, uncouthly, disrespectfully, outgoingly, personably and so forth (according to my own standards which I have no right to project onto another, but which are similar to the “Golden Rule” – mine being “I’ll pretend you do not exist if you’ll pretend I do not exist” or “I’ll stay out of your space/sound/business – you stay out of mine”, tending to necessary transactions only – which rarely require speech or contact in these days of automation – thank you technology!) levels the limits of my “personal agency” by half. Add another person and I’m at 33% power and so on, incrementally I am laid into the arbitrary hands, minds, eyes, mouths and minds of insurmountable odds the moment I step out of my door.
Hence I have affinity for places like caves and Montana, Wyoming, Kansas’ Great Plains, my house – any places population statistics give 1:25 miles or more. And travel is usually okay – tend to be moving too quickly to be personally accosted, possibly imposed, or at least there is the available motion – to move away.
I don’t trust humans. Judging from myself and those closest to me – we are veritable paradoxes of mixed wants, feelings, perspectives and desires, concatenations of all manner of possibilities with very little apparent say in the matter or manner of our instincts and cross-purposing wills.
I.e. my fears seem reasonable enough. And have gotten me halfway through my life relatively healthy and calm. I’ll stay on guard, avoid what I can, and try to survive another forty years of relative disquiet.
N Filbert 2012