Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986) was a science fiction writer known for his saga, “Dune” which is the best selling science fiction of all time. It won a Nebula award in 1965 and shared the Hugo Award with Roger Zelazny’s “…And Call Me Conrad” in 1966. His works’ phenomenal success was attributed to his highly imaginative yet philosophical concept that predicts the future of humanity instead of human technology. The multi-layered plots and themes are products of his 6-year research and wide influences from science fiction and philosophy books.
The quote above was taken from Herbert’s classic series “Dune”. It is widely quoted, making it the most popular line from the book. This “litany against fear” is an incantation of the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood with superhuman abilities resulted from years of intense mind and body training. In the series, the Bene Gesserit recite the incantation in times of peril or in rituals and tests that involve excruciating pain.
Psychologists and neuroscientists have long discovered the power of exposure, habituation, and positive affirmation in overcoming fear. Avoidance only magnifies fear and pain. To quote Stanford scientist Philippe Goldin: “Exposure is hands down the most successful way to deal with phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of any sort.”
In his first inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt delivered one of history’s famous quote on fear: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”