The Crippling Effects of Fear

Growing in Fear

Fear is a negative emotion that prevents many persons from taking action.  While we were growing up, the fear of getting a beating from our teachers or parents would prevent me and my siblings from engaging in behaviour that were considered undesirable by adults. Belts were often named. At the mention of its name, children were expected to cower in fear. Even the most feared “look” we were afraid of. “The look” is that facial expression that parents had which would let children know to keep themselves in line otherwise they would get a well-deserved lashing.

Adults and children alike were afraid of Duppies[1]. Therefore, whomever pointed on a grave would bite their “ten fingers” and no one would dare to wash their face with rice water then look through their feet upside down to see the duppy sitting on top of a casket.


Children were afraid of the “rolling calf”[2] and the black heart man[3], and I was afraid of maths.

All maths teachers I was afraid of until I had Mr. Williams in the latter part of the 10th Grade. Reason being, ALL maths teachers were rough; I also hated the subject even though my mother was a maths teacher.

Children were raised to be afraid, not to be bold. Adults were always right. Children were also not expected to question things. We were warned of the consequences if we challenged the status quo, and in my parent’s house my dad was entitled to say whatever he felt like regardless of how hurtful it was or made us feel. Fortunately for us, he did not speak much but whenever he did we were expected to fear him. Because of this, we did not dialogue much with him and this eventually affected our bond as we felt more comfortable sharing our experiences with our mother.

People react differently to fear. As a child I was bold and less afraid. I would fight if necessary to get some issues resolved. After attending high school although I was quite vocal, I was not taught how to defend myself in other ways especially how to handle a situation that made me fearful.

The Funeral

My mother was the church organist. She frequently played at church funerals therefore the concept of dying did not bother me until I got to Grade 3 when one of my classmates (Brenda) died suddenly. The cause of death was a “duppy.” Apparently, in those days if your death was sudden or the finding at the autopsy was inclusive it meant that you were either obeahed or killed by a duppy.

Sister Christine and Father Grenier took my classmates and me to her funeral in Cavaliers where she was buried at home in a little dirt grave (the norm at that time).

After seeing her sister Georgina, her mother and cousins, we went up to view her body. Being quite inquisitive I peeped into the coffin which was covered with glass, and saw her in her little blue dress with her head tied. I even looked to see if she had on shoes.  I stared at the photo of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” propped up on the cover of the coffin which showed that Jesus was welcoming this little child unto him.

Apart from my relatives, Sophia and Andre with whom I shared class since basic school (kindergarten), Brenda was my best friend. We took the Mail Bus home together; we played together; we cared for each other.

It wasn’t until the group started to sing the song we had rehearsed that I understood what being dead meant.

While we sang “heart of Jesus meek and mild, hear or hear thy feeble child”, it dawned on me that I would never see or hear my friend again. The coffin was closed; she did not open her eyes; that was when I realised that she had really died.

Later that evening, on that cool Sunday night as I sat on Maas Ceebert’s shop step, while my grandparents participated in the open air church service at the Salisbury Plain Square, I got scared. I got very, very, afraid.

Since that day I became afraid of anything that related to the word death. If I heard or saw a hearse coming, I would run faster than Usain Bolt, climb an embankment or hide.

One day Mr. Jones, who drove a hearse, stopped by our house to get the car fixed, as my dad is an Auto Electrician and Mechanic. Can you imagine my fright that Sunday after church to see that thing in my yard? First of all I had to pass the vehicle to get inside the house; that was not going to happen. I would not go – not even 6 feet – near the vehicle much less touch it!  I therefore found that day an alternate route to the house. I took a shortcut through bushes to get to the house and to avoid the vehicle or being called by daddy to bring him any tool that he could use to fix that “monster”.

Fear can make you do crazy things. From I was about 6 years old I said I wanted to become a nurse when I grew up. The desire was so strong that I joined the Red Cross group at school and was always interested in rendering first aid to those in need.  The day I was told that to be a nurse in Jamaica you had to stuff dead people was the day that career dream died.

Being a member of a uniform group at Oberlin High School meant that you had to be subjected to taking orders from the Scout leaders.

One day, my Grade 8 science teacher’s son died. After he hopped a bus in Half Way Tree the bus accidentally ran over him. His death meant that the uniformed groups had to do a Guard of Honour as well as partake in the ceremony on that day.

I had no idea that my schoolmate dying would literally give me nightmares, as the Scout leader “Shorty” who was quite rough at the time ordered us to carry the casket through Golden Spring square. We had to take turns lifting the heavy casket during the procession. After getting over that ordeal as we approached the graveside, a few of us were ordered by the scout leader to encircle the grave where we were to guide persons who would come to look on the body.

It was just my bad luck that Shorty put me to stand right by the head of my schoolmate. I couldn’t believe this happened.  After all, I did not want to see his body. However, I was also afraid of the verbal lashing and possible punishment I would get if I defied a Scoutmaster.

Hence I stood like a soldier by Taylor’s graveside.  I ended up seeing my schoolmate’s face, the stitches around his head and, oh boy, those days the dead weren’t made up properly with matching foundation and powder. This resulted in the person looking quite scary. I ended up having nightmare many nights. The image of his face kept popping up, just when I was about to go to sleep.

The Preacher

Some people flee or some people fight when they are faced with a challenge.  My husband’s uncle, a former principal of Oberlin High, shared a story one day about being afraid.

Uncle had just left the seminary and was assigned to a district in St. Thomas. He was a young minister and had gotten the opportunity to do his first funeral which was held on a beach. The funeral was in full swing and he stood by the grave side with the choir members and other attendees performing the ceremony.

The man who had died had drowned at sea. The grave was dug and as the men lowered him into the grave using ropes, the coffin slipped and out fell the body into the grave.

The attendees (including the choir) ran away leaving him alone standing by the graveside.  (If I was there too I would have reacted likewise as it’s the natural thing to do).

Uncle then stated that he was afraid like anyone else, as it was a natural emotion but, what was he to do – run? He was the minister, (ministers are supposed to be brave and to lead), so instead of fleeing he took out his hymnbook and started to sing “Peace, Perfect Peace” after which the observers realised that nothing had happened to him and eventually joined in.

I can only imagine the expectation that the dead man was probably going to somehow come out of the grave and the unknown would have happened. This is because fear can cause our imagination to create images of what may become, and not the reality of what actually is.

The typical response to fear is either to fight or flee and uncle’s facing his fears at that event earned him respect with his congregation.

Step forward in FAITH

It is often said that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I am sure you have heard statements such as “some things are better left up to God”. “God won’t give you more than you can bear”, “forgive seventy times seven”, “turn the other cheek”, “do not seek revenge or practice an eye for an eye”. But are these statements really in our best interest? The mere fact that we are humans often makes it difficult to believe these statements or to hold on to beliefs practiced by many religions that encourage being docile.

In our decision making, the factors which influence us to decide whether to fight or flee, forgive or face, forget or regret the choices we make are based on several factors including our culture, how we were raised and our personalities.

Many persons wrestle with thoughts of weighing the pros and cons of a matter to be dealt with as some may say that some actions are not worth your time and energy and dismiss addressing the matter. Many of us procrastinate, hoping that it we put off what we ought to do today that tomorrow may be a better day and things may change.


When something negative happens to us once, do we see it as just an unfortunate occurrence?  What if you are faced with the same or similar situations several times?  Would you consider the occurrences mere bad luck or lessons to be learnt?  I have had to learn the hard way that “procrastination is the thief of time” and that avoidance may not be the best solution to solving workplace conflicts. I’ve learnt over time that I should not be afraid to ask and that the worst answer I could hear to a question is ‘no’. I have learnt that I should face my fears, climb my mountains, overcome my failures and realise that I am only human.

I have had to learn the hard way that worry is not helpful, that fear cripples you and that both combined can be devastating, as over time your sense of self, confidence, optimism and even your personality can diminish.

I can actually understand the frame of mind that the great Bob Marley had when he wrote the song “Who the Cap Fit”.

The lines that relate to the situations that inspired the next chapter are as follows:

  • Man to man is unjust. (We are often cruel to each other)
  • It’s hard to know who to trust (People will be people-some are deceptive and spiteful while others hurt you unintentionally)
  • Your enemy could be your friend and your friend your enemy. (Not everyone who smiles with you is your friend)
  • Who God has blessed, no one can curse (With God’s blessings you can weather any storm, be victorious)

The struggles I have had with fear in the past had crippled my life by causing me to not take hold of many opportunities. However, I just want to remind you that someone once said that the acronym F.E.A.R. is: FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL.  Fear is a negative emotion that can cripple us by preventing us from taking action. Do not let it stop you from taking risks, decisions or making your requests known.


Faith on the other hand is the opposite of fear. It is stepping forward boldly as stated in Hebrews 11 verse 1.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. It’s believing that positive things will happen, and that you will receive the promises of abundance as stated by The Word of God. Simplified: Fear is expecting the worst whilst faith is expecting the best.

I know having faith is easier said than done, however, each new day is an opportunity to eliminate all fears. Keep trying until you become bold. Step forward in FAITH not FEAR and most of all Don’t You Quit.

Don’t Quit – Poem


When Things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and debts are high,
And you want to Smile but have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out,
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up,
When he might captured the victor’s cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown,

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.


Author – Anonymous


[1]Duppies are ghosts.

[2] A calf that became a ghost that had a chain that made a lot of  noise

[3] A man who took away little children, he would also rape them and kill them.