Into The Agora

I heard of a functioning agoraphobic who could hold down work but never go outside his local parameters. No main roads, and no cities. A friend asked him what he was scared of. She said: ‘You’re afraid of losing control.’ He said: ‘Yes! How did you know?’

At the root of all fear is a fear of losing control. This is something I’ve known for some time, but never had the courage to face. When you think about it, though, it’s inescapable. Fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of the agora: at the heart is the terror of doubt, disorientation, dislocation, the loss of reference points, the ground beneath your feet.

The fear of going mad is based on a fear of unreality. And this applies to historic anxieties. Perhaps the reason the human race is so hung up about sexuality is that the orgasm represents a loss of control. Many of us prefer control and stability to happiness. The ultimate loss of control, of course, is death, and we will do anything to avoid or deny it.

I knew in theory that being in control wasn’t always a good thing. ‘You gain control by losing control,’ my therapist told me. And then I remembered something else, something an artist of my acquaintance wrote over one of her paintings:

When you let go, you don’t always fall. Sometimes you fly.


(Image from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, via Uranias)


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