From whence comes fear, and does the where matter? In terms of how we react to the fear, yes, it matters quite a bit. After watching 2018's Adrift recently, the concept of fear was what stayed with me. In the based-on-a-true-story film, Shailene Woodley plays a woman named Tami who is adrift in the ocean for 41 days. What was so striking to me was her lack of fear of the water.
The cinematography and music did an excellent job in supporting her perspective towards water. Before the disaster, we see Tami so comfortable around boats and the ocean and other water. At one point, she dives straight in to a river and sits underwater holding her breath while waiting for Richard to join her. The camera lovingly hovers around the surface of the water, blurring under and above water to show that it's all the same to her. She is just as comfortable under as above. Usually when cameras do this, it shows vulnerability and often danger; here, it just shows that comfort.
Yet Tami, of course, can recognize when there is real danger. When they are caught in the storm and an impossibly high wave towers towards the yacht, she knows that their lives are at stake. That is the moment when the ocean is a vast, formidable foe--in the presence of which Tami is simply a tiny, near powerless human. In the aftermath, she likewise knows that her chances of making it safely to land are slim. And yet still she does not fear the water. She jumps into the ocean at different points for various necessities with the same gumption as she had before. Amazing, no?
Fear exists to keep us from danger. But fear also has a tendency to be irrational. It is good to fear jumping off of the roof of a skyscraper because that fear keeps us from dying. But it is unnecessary to be afraid of being on a rooftop because there is no more danger there than there is anywhere else--and yet so many people with a fear of heights would be greatly afraid.
What I saw in Tami's interaction with water was the ability to separate out the rational and irrational fears. Also, she separates what she is able to control and unable to control. All of that is much easier said than done. She knows she can swim, so she doesn't fear jumping into calm waters. She knows a fierce storm in the ocean is a great danger, so she fears being caught in a strong storm in a small craft. She knows she can make ship repairs and navigate, so she doesn't fear doing so. She knows her target is small and her resources are limited, so she fears missing the window for survival.
And yet she still does not fear the water. For the water is no more threat than the land. Danger can exist anywhere. But to live always in fear robs us. If we could allow fear to simply be a warning of danger rather than a rampant emotion, wouldn't that be so much simpler?