Fear Makes You Feel Alive

We hear it all the time. We tell it to our kids. Don’t be afraid.

Living in fear is generally a Bad Thing. Fear can hold us back, keep us from trying new things, or reaching our potential. But fear does something else that doesn’t often get talked about.

Fear makes us feel alive.

Think about it. The dead feel no fear. The dead don’t feel anything. And who wants to be dead, right?

I remember doing my SCUBA certification back in 1996. Part of the course was a deep dive, to the edge of a continental shelf, 105 feet down. The thought was more than a little panic-inducing. There would be no shooting to the surface. What if I couldn’t handle the pressurization/decompression stops? What if my mask broke, or I lost my regulator? What if my buoyancy compensator malfunctioned and I wound up sinking too deep? What if I get attacked by a shark?

You get the picture. It was almost enough to make me quit before I started.

But I went. My mask and regulator were fine. I handled the pressure stops with ease. My BC worked perfectly. I hung at 105 feet, table-sized plate coral to my left (seriously, I would have been crushed under that thing). In front and behind, the water tapered off into blackness. The next “land” beneath my feet was another 100 feet down, where I would have been squashed like a grape. And had I swum to my right, I wouldn’t have encountered land until I hit Africa.

I have never felt so scared.

I have never felt so alive.

When you feel fear, your heart starts pounding. The adrenaline may kick in. You get that “fight or flight” instinct. All of it reminds you that you are alive. You can feel, you can move, you can do – YOU ARE AWESOME!

Good fiction does the same thing – it makes us (at least a little) afraid, makes us turn that page. Are you kidding, don’t go into the dark cellar alone, in a storm, with no electricity, with a serial killer on the loose! Page flip – because while we might be afraid, we also need to know, how does it turn out?

Now, I’m not suggesting we all turn into adrenaline junkies. But the next time fear raises its ugly head, take a chance. Embrace it. Go out on that limb.

You might be surprised how alive you feel.


Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog again - one of these days.

11 thoughts on “Fear Makes You Feel Alive”

  1. Yes! It’s pushing those boundaries. Sometimes I do certain things just because I am afraid to do them. For instance, I read at a Noir at the Bar recently because speaking in public has always frightened me. What I learned? Not only did I LOVE it. But I was good at it.
    Also: turn that nervous energy/fear around and use it to your benefit. Great post, Mary! This is so much fun. I’m so glad we started doing this!


  2. I’ve heard people say excitement is joy and fear combined. Really proves your point. Maybe that’s why people read mysteries and thrillers–to experience a good jolt of adrenaline.


  3. Kristi, public speaking terrifies me. Yet I keep doing it – and people keep telling me I’m good at it. Go figure.

    Theresa, good point. That may be why, as a reader, I’ve always felt very drawn to thriller/suspense/police-procedure mysteries. That sense of “Oh my – I need to find out what happens, but I’m terrified!”

    (And two typos? Seriously, not having a good technology morning.)


  4. Ladies, I love public speaking for the exact same reason you don’t love it: the adrenaline rush! In Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear, he says that feeling fear helps us identify threatening situations that our “rational” minds might dismiss (like many amateur sleuths). Fascinating stuff, and also, a 4-letter word.


  5. “we also need to know, how does it turn out?” = always! Great post, Mary. (And I was more than a little afraid just reading your description of the dive…you are brave!)

    Theresa, I wish I could proofread my spoken words in lectures. One time, I was trying to say “cosmologist” and it came out “cosmetologist.” Um, big difference. Sorry, Sir Isaac Newton.


  6. Thanks all. Cynthia, it was scary and I still get scared thinking about it, almost 20 years later (Did I really do that?). But it’s definitely one of those “touchstone moments,” when I just realized how small I was and how awesome to be able to experience that. And count me among those who’d want to see a “gravitational hairstyle” (and yes, I totally get wanting to proofread spoken words too).


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