WHEN CAN I STOP RUNNING?
Have you ever been afraid? Truly afraid?
I’m talking about gut-wrenching fear – the kind you might experience when your very life is in danger. If so, chances are high that your feelings of terror occurred at night.
And why is night, in particular, the scariest part of the 24-hour day?
We all know that the dark of night can be daunting and may hide mysterious things. It’s the time of day when sound carries, and a person may be unable to identify sudden strange noises, shifting shadows or other potential threats that may or may not be real. As a result, the imagination kicks in – supposedly to help the brain make decisions – but that just adds to the uncertainty and fear.
So what exactly is fear? The Dictionary defines it as, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and likely to cause pain. A threat; something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; the anticipation that something unpleasant will occur.”
Impending danger, evil, pain – whether the threat is real or imagined – arouse this distressing emotion. Most of the time, what you don’t see is more unnerving than what you do see.
Fear is a human adaptive response. It’s normal and even helpful to experience fear in dangerous situations. It serves a protective purpose, activating the “fight-or-flight” response in all of us. Without fear, we’d jump headlong into things we shouldn’t. With our bodies and minds alert and ready for action, we can respond quickly and protect ourselves.
Protect us from what? In most cases, the unknown!
Experiencing fear as children, the usual reaction was to call out to our parents for help. If they weren’t around, then diving under a blanket or running away as fast as our legs could carry us seemed like the solution.
Of course, it’s only natural that at that young age, certain events were terrifying to us. As adults, in retrospect, we may laugh at the memory of many of those things that frightened us when we were adolescents. However, other harrowing episodes may have left unhealed scars in our psyche, and looking back, they are not the least bit humorous to us.
For some, the very memory of being in hair-raising situations is nearly as traumatic as experiencing the actual event. Think about those men and women in the military who had deployed to a war zone, be it Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world. Step into their shoes for a moment and join them during a single patrol to seek out the enemy. It’s like walking through a House of Horrors at a carnival. Everyone on the team expects something to happen at any moment. It might be an attack from an enemy soldier poised to kill you or a fellow infantryman, an unseen booby trap, or some other potentially fatal danger lurking around any corner. Fear is constantly present and running is not an option!
Bravery is the quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain, while conquering your fear. It demonstrates having the utmost confidence in your training. That is how many of us in the military survived.
‘When Can I Stop Running?‘ is a story about fear and how the author (‘Polack’) dealt with it, both in Vietnam and throughout his childhood. Readers will accompany the author and his friend and fellow grunt (‘LG’) during a night-long mission in the jungles of Vietnam. The two lone soldiers are manning a “Listening Post,” hiding in the dense shrubbery, some 500 meters outside the firebase perimeter. The author juxtaposes his nightmarish hours in the bush with some of his most heart-pounding childhood escapades. Readers may relate to the childish antics with amusement; military veterans will find themselves relating to both captivating collections.
To learn more about John: