Star Trek

Why Does Fear Exist?

Purpose of FearBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Fear can kill us in more ways than one.

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “The Thaw,” the crew of the starship Voyager finds a planet that suffered an ecological disaster. Five of the aliens who lived there placed themselves into a timed stasis, set to release them when the surface was safe for them to live on again. The only problem is, when Voyager finds them, their scheduled time to emerge is four years in the past.

The crew brings the stasis pods on board Voyager to see what went wrong. Two of the aliens are dead of heart attacks, and the other three should have emerged, but for some reason, they haven’t. The problem isn’t mechanical, and they can’t wake them. They also can’t simply shut down the stasis pods without causing brain damage because all the aliens’ minds are connected to the central computer.

Two Voyager officers use the extra stasis pods to go in and see what’s happening. They find that the virtual reality where the aliens’ consciousness lives while they’re in stasis is pulling from their own fears to create Fear, a cruel, horrifying being. The two aliens who died were killed because Fear guillotined them, quite literally scaring them to death.

Fear refuses to release the surviving aliens—and now one of the Voyager officers—because, without them, he will cease to exist.

To rescue them, Captain Kathryn Janeway needs to figure out what it is that Fear wants. Why does fear exist?

“Why do people enjoy dangerous sports?” she asks Voyager’s doctor. “Why, after all these centuries, do children still ride on rollercoasters?”

She has a revelation about the answer, and she convinces Fear to trade her for the hostages.

“You show remarkable trust, Captain,” Fear says when she enters his world. “How could you be so sure I’d keep my word?”

“I’ve known fear. It’s a very healthy thing most of the time. You warn us of danger. Remind us of our limits. Protect us from carelessness. I’ve learned to trust fear.”

As Janeway’s consciousness filters into the system, Fear realizes she’s tricked him. She’s not actually in a stasis chamber at all. They’d found another way to let him feel her mind without putting her in danger of becoming trapped.

She tricked him because she realized the real reason for fear’s existence. “You know as well as I do,” she says, “that fear only exists for one purpose. To be conquered.”

It seems so simple. Whether we conquer fear by removing the threat, backing away from the limit we were about to break, or understanding, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” fear only exists to be conquered. It was never meant to be an emotion we lived with constantly.

The unhealthy type of fear (that doesn’t warn us of danger or exceeded limits) is the hardest to conquer. Fear was, quite literally, all in the aliens’ heads, but they couldn’t control their emotions enough to get rid of him. He held them prisoner—just as our fear, fear created by our minds rather than by reality, so often holds us prisoner.

And just like Fear killed the aliens, our fear can kill our dreams.

In his speech, Roosevelt defines this type of fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

So what can we do to make sure unhealthy fear doesn’t stop us?

Learn to recognize when fear is hiding behind the mask of other emotions. Fear is sneaky. When you snap at your spouse because they were late getting home, you’re probably not actually angry. You were afraid something bad happened to them. But they don’t know that, and your fear just hurt your relationship. Until we recognize fear, we can’t deal with the root cause and stop it from hurting us. We can’t conquer it.

Let go of your illusion of safety. I’m a hypochondriac (and very embarrassed to admit it, actually). I routinely believe I have cancer, a blood clot, food poisoning, or a host of other problems most people have probably never heard of. Does fearing them actually keep me safe from them? Nope. Sometimes fearing something has zero value.

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Recognize that failure can be a beautiful thing as long as we use it to learn. Many of us let fear of failure hold us back. If you try to reach your goal and fail, you’re back in the same place as if you’d never tried. So not trying doesn’t protect you; it keeps you stuck. In fact, if you don’t try, you’re actually further behind because you haven’t learned the lessons failure taught.

Have a contingency plan. I get laughed at sometimes because I’m extremely detail-oriented and I have contingency plans for my contingency plans. But I’m rarely caught off guard with something unexpected. I’m not afraid or stressed out because I know that if something goes wrong, I have a plan to deal with it, and I know it won’t take me long to recover. My much-mocked plans are actually my secret source of confidence.

Have you let fear hold you back? What’s your best tip for combating unhealthy fear?

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For an excellent post on how fear can be a gift, check out August McLaughlin’s Lifesaving Resolution #4: Trusting Your Instincts.

Image Credit: Lena Povrzenic (from www.sxc.hu)

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What Star Trek Race Are You?

When two nerds fight, especially two married nerds, it can take a very strange turn. She tells him that the problem is she’s a Vulcan and he’s a Klingon, and he counters that she’s not a Vulcan, she’s a Borg. And he’s not like a Klingon, he’s more like a Hirogen.

And pretty soon they forget what they were fighting about in the first place because she says, “Hey, wouldn’t that be a fun blog post?” And off they go discussing the traits that are unique to each race in Star Trek.

So now it’s your turn – what Star Trek race are you? Read the descriptions below and write down the letter of the one that’s most like you. (Don’t look for it to be exact, since you might be half-human, half-alien.) At the end, I’ll tell you what race you picked 🙂

(A) You hide your emotions and often devalue them, refusing to let them control you. You prefer things you can quantify and measure, so you’re drawn to math and the hard sciences. You’re rational and like your home to be neat and tidy.

(B) You like traditions and value honor above all else. You tend to see the world in black and white and don’t like indecision. Sometimes you can be hot-headed and easily offended, but you’re also strong and willing to fight for what you think is right.

(C) You’re a good judge of character. You’re also the kind of person complete strangers tend to open up to (whether you like it or not). You have a big heart and hurt when others hurt. You believe that honesty is always the best policy, sometimes to the point of embarrassing your loved ones.

(D) You strive for perfection, and love order and efficiency. You don’t know how to accept defeat and are creative in solving problems. You can be stubborn. Others’ opinions matter to you more than you’d like.

(E) You’re quirky and have a strong sense of humor. You enjoy the company of people and the simple pleasures in life like food, a hot bath, or working with your hands. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re also gullible because you think the best of everyone.

(F) You’re a very spiritual person and love culture and the arts. You defend your beliefs against attack and tend to prefer to associate with people who think the same way you do because you’ve been hurt in the past.

ANSWER KEY:

(A) You’re a Vulcan like Spock in the original Star Trek, Tuvok in Voyager, and T’Pol in Enterprise. Due to nearly allowing their strong emotions to destroy them, Vulcans learned how to control and repress their emotions through meditation so that they no longer feel them. Vulcans prize logic and are a generally peaceful, honest people unless logic dictates they must fight or lie.

(B) You’re a Klingon like Worf in The Next Generation or B’Elanna Torres (half-human) in Voyager. Klingons are a warrior species, passionate in all they do (including love). They’d prefer an honorable death in battle to going home in defeat. Ritual, tradition, and family honor are core values in their society.

(C) You’re a Betazoid like Deanna Troi in The Next Generation. Even though Betazoids look human, they have empathic and telepathic abilities, meaning they’re able to sense other people’s emotions and thoughts. While this means they can help others (for example, by counseling them), they need to be careful not to use their abilities to manipulate others for their own benefit.

(D) You’re Borg like Seven of Nine in Voyager. The Borg don’t reproduce like other species, but rather assimilate people from other species (usually against their will) into the Borg Collective. Their goal is to attain perfection by adding each species’ “biological and technological distinctiveness” to their own. Borg don’t consider themselves individuals because they’re all connected through a hive mind and function as a unit. They’re able to quickly adapt to almost any situation.

(E) You’re a Talaxian like Neelix in Voyager. Talaxians are a friendly, gregarious, well-meaning race who is always willing to lend a hand when needed, leaving them open to being taken advantage of. They enjoy food and entertainment, which made Neelix a perfect choice for cook and morale officer on Voyager (even though his cooking was often too creative for some).

(F) You’re a Bajoran like Kira Nerys in Deep Space Nine and Ro Loren in The Next Generation. Bajorans have a long history and rich culture, but their fertile planet was oppressed and pillaged by the Cardassians for years, making them fiercely independent (understandably) now that they have their freedom back. The major unifying force for Bajorans is their religion.

I still think that my husband is more like a Klingon than a Hirogen, but in the end, I had to admit he was right about me. I’m basically a Borg. Resistance is futile 😉

What race (or combination of races) are you?

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Are You Living Life at Warp 10?

When social media maven Kristen Lamb suggested I use the logline Life At Warp 10 for my blog, she found a way to sum up not only my love for science fiction and fantasy, my fascination (my husband would call it obsession) with uniqueness, and my desire to try new things, but also the speed at which I live my life—something she couldn’t possibly have known.

Or could she. You see, living life at warp 10, for all its benefits, can bring with it consequences obvious to anyone with eyes.

I first heard about warp 10 through the Season 2 episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Threshold.”

The starship Voyager is stranded in the Delta quadrant (Earth is in the Alpha quadrant). Even if they could travel at their fastest speed the whole time, they’re still 75 years from home. And more than anything they want to get home to the loved ones who think they’re dead.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, Voyager’s pilot, along with his two closest friends, comes up with a plan to get them home sooner—warp 10. Theoretically, warp 10 is impossible. You wouldn’t really be moving at all. You’d be everywhere at once. By traveling at warp 10, they could simply be home again instantly.   

Paris, however, has solved the puzzle, and they’ve equipped a shuttle with warp 10 capabilities. Before he leaves, the doctor warns Paris there’s a two percent chance he could die due to a rare medical condition. He decides to take the risk. He argues this is his one chance to do something truly great, something that will go into history books.

He breaks the warp 10 barrier, and for a moment, it’s amazing. He’s everywhere. He can see Voyager and knows they’re looking for him, but he can also see home, their enemies, everything. The data he collects is invaluable.

And he’s achieved his goal. He’s made history.

Although Paris doesn’t die due to his medical condition, his time at warp 10 mutates his genes. He can’t drink water or breathe oxygen anymore. Before the doctor can treat him, his mind goes, he kidnaps Captain Kathryn Janeway, goes back to warp 10 to find a planet, and they both end up mutated lizards on a non-oxygen atmosphere planet with three lizard babies.

Living life at warp 10 is like that (minus the kidnapping and lizard babies of course).

You move as fast as you possibly can, and for a moment, it’s amazing. You’re able to be everything for everyone and do everything you need to. You’re doing it because you have a dream of doing something important, and that dream is worth the risks and sacrifices.

Except if you only stay at warp 10, you find yourself mutating into something you don’t like. I don’t like how tired I am and how I can’t enjoy the simple things that were once essential (you know, like Paris and his water and oxygen). I don’t like how I sometimes snap at my loved ones. I’ve been moving too fast for too long.

So while I want the experience of life at warp 10, the discoveries it brings and the chance it provides to reach my dream, I’m learning to also come back and get a treatment of slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life. Being able to successfully live life at warp 10 requires finding balance.

After all, I don’t think my husband would really appreciate me having lizard babies with someone else.

What keeps you moving at warp 10? What do you love about it? How do you make sure you don’t miss the simple pleasures along the way?

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