Ricky, who designed and painted parts for rare cars and motorcycles, proclaimed: “I’m gonna drop dead in two months.” That is how he opened the conversation when I met him for the first time as my patient. Talk about cutting to the chase! Quickly adjusting gears from an opening greeting to this steep fall in topic, I asked if he was afraid of death. He replied, “I am not afraid of things I can’t change. I’m only afraid of things I could change but I don’t.” Ricky was not able to elaborate. He moved off to the relatively lighter topic of the motorcycle he built for himself and decorated by himself but would now have to sell (for obvious reasons). Maybe he meant by his remark that he was afraid of living with guilt and regrets. Or maybe he meant he kept doing things that made him unhappy.
I can only speculate, but what grabbed my attention was that Ricky feared dealing with choices more than dealing with fate. Usually it is the reverse for most of us, is it not? Perhaps for him, uncertainty and lack of confidence to better himself was scarier than the certainty of his fate. Can’t control it? Then no responsibility for what happens. There is just sweet surrender.
Maybe a small part of us in some remote corner of the psyche can admit to identifying with Ricky. We can be passive about certain things. Perhaps what we really fear is having less and less control over doing a given thing differently because we have built thicker and thicker emotional walls to surmount. This then blurs the distinction between fate and choice. I trust that our self-sabotage is far scarier for us than any Halloween image we may encounter tonight.