Aha ha. I had a similar experience when I creamed a small snake with spider spray, then whisked him out the door with a broom. He had the nerve to slide sideways into my house when I opened the door one night, and, hey, I'm paying the mortgage here—not him.
However, after I realized I had NOT had a heart attack, but had calmly (OK, “calmly” may not be the right word) walked to the kitchen to get any deadly poison I could find, I, like you, Matt, started to feel sorry for this snake. Though it was a fleeting tinge of a feeling, I even stopped spraying him as I watched him squirm frantically away, but, then, he turned and slithered sideways toward me—probably because he was blinded by toxic chemicals—and I saw it as a direct attack. That ends story of one very dead snake.
Since then I've decided to choose my fear--or rather not to choose it because it’s such a waste of time and energy. I remember I did this when I went sky diving for the first time. I refused to let the fear rise up. It was an amazing thing (did I just use the word "thing"?) to realize I had that much control. Though my rabid fear of snakes has seemed out of my control, somehow I've finally perceived that snakes are usually crawling AWAY from me (though I still reserve all rights to smash any who turn to slither my way). I've decided to save my fear for bigger things--like tarantulas or bats.
Seriously, though, I love your thesis about how uncomfortable giving up even false beliefs and fears can be and how just contemplating the idea can seem like too much risk to one's personal mental health. (This is why I have not had much hope for Obama from the beginning. Our nation is still too infantile. Yes, my patriotism was fanned into fire as I watched us elect him. Geez, after what I saw in the late 50's, 60's, 70's, I was ecstatic to see such a miracle. But, I knew he'd be hit with hand grenades from all sides. He looks like a deer in headlights. However, I’ll reserve judgment until we know more.)
But, on a personal level, I fear going numb—like one of Pavlov’s rats that gets shocked so many times she stops moving out of the way? What is that? What is going numb? It’s not letting any little feeling surface because if one tiny feeling gets though the concrete, others may come until there’s a whole wash of them, a flood that may drown us because the painful ones may be more agonizing than any we’ve yet known, and the sorrow we’ve already known was almost unbearable. I’m afraid of fear and how it can turn us inward to live in such a small suffocating world. So, sometimes, to choose faith instead of fear means reframing my day from the very beginning—not just once a week or yearly, but every single day, sometimes every hour. And without the Atonement to oil this process, to soothe this rocky struggle, I wouldn’t last 30 seconds. I would turn my back on the future and stop moving. Like the Wife of Lot, I’d turn into salt because I looked backward instead of having faith in the Lord to shape a good future. He does have that kind of power. He does want our happiness. He does have a stake in our lives turning out well. And He IS very powerful and kind.
Today, I'm "alive and well. And that's good enough for me."
Did you know that Tarantulas can spin silk with their feet?
Ha. I just heard a country song lyric that says “Heaven help the fool who gets it wrong.”