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"Embrace your worst fear; become one with the darkness."

Everybody has something that scares the ever-loving crap out of them. Thunder, reptiles, or maybe bloody, painful death. Rest assured that in fiction land, if it scares you, you will either end up somewhere where said fear is everywhere, or be relentlessly pursed by said fear. Reactions will not vary, with said character wanting nothing to do with this terrifying thing in any way, shape or form.

And then something changes.

Maybe they've run as far as they can and are now trapped, so they say something cool then face it head on. Maybe in order to accomplish a goal, they have to go through the Monster Clown blocking their path. Or maybe their friends are in danger, and only by knocking Cthulhu the hell out can you rescue them. So they do it.

Said scared person for whatever reason mans up, bitch-slaps his fears into submission, and saves the day. Maybe he or she hasn't totally conquered his fear, but at least you know they can overcome it when it matters. Often a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

This is a Subtrope of a "What Do They Fear?" Episode, and a Super-Trope of Cowardly Lion, who deals with this often. See also Not Afraid of You Anymore which is a verbal invoking of this trope.


Anime and Manga

  • Pretty much the entire theme of Soul Eater (particularly the anime version). Indeed the Big Bad's main failing was cowardice.



  • Zombieland: Columbus fears a whole bunch of things, but the big fear is clowns. So naturally he has to face a zombie clown in order to save the girl he is interested in.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Indiana Jones finds the Well of Souls, he discovers that it's full of snakes, which is a problem because he has a severe phobia of snakes. He decides to go in anyway because it's the only way he can get the Ark of the Covenant.
  • Harry Potter averts this: Ron has a fear of spiders, which he doesn't lose even after being tied up by giant spiders and nearly eaten. If anything, that probably enhances it.
  • This is a major theme in Batman Begins, where Henri Ducard tells Bruce Wanye to breathe in his fears, to become fear so as to conquer it, makes him open a case of bats during training, etc... but after Bruce leaves the League of Shadows he decides to walk into a cave where he surrounds himself with bats, and he learns to not let fear get in his way... hence his later courage in confronting crime.
  • Kevin has to face his fear of his basement furnace in the first Home Alone movie.
  • In Mortal Kombat, Raiden talks to Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and Liu Kang about confronting their own fears: fear to admit the need of help, fear to being a fake, and fear to destiny, respectively. The latter is important to the plot, though, as Shang Tsung tries to exploit it near the end, with no results.

  Raiden: Goro can be killed, and Shang Tsung's power can be destroyed by Mortal men and women. You can overcome any adversary, no matter what they are or what their powers may seem there is always a way. There is only one thing that can beat you: your own fear.

  • Jason Voorhees ends up facing his fear of water in Freddy vs. Jason, and Freddy has to face his fear of fire... sort of. It should be noted that Jason apparently faced that same fear in Friday the 13th Part 4, with better results.


  • In Tamora Pierce's Tortall books, this is the purpose of the Chamber of Ordeal. A heroic character will emerge stronger, having confronted and conquered his or her greatest fear. An unworthy character will be utterly broken by the experience, which may include actually dying.
  • The Litany against fear from Dune expresses this trope perfectly:

 I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

    • There is also the nerve-induction box, better known as the Gom Jabbar test. A student must place his hand in the box, which makes flesh feel like it's on fire. If he removes the hand, he'll be killed by the Gom Jabbar, a poisoned needle. The purpose of the test is to prove that the student is truly "human", in that their reason is more powerful than their instincts. The test is more about pain and instinct than fear, but fear plays into it somewhat.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the test to become accepted involves going through three archways which produce scenes that reflect the girl in question's fears.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, Jane is afraid of cows until one day, as she is going about their pasture rather than face them, she realizes that she is wrong to scorn her mother for being afraid to face down her own mother when she's afraid of cows. So she faces them and is so cured that later, when her cousin is afraid of cows, Jane doesn't even remember it.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles's nerves are much restored when he lives to collect his first paycheck, and then when he first kills a rattlesnake.

 After a few weeks, when Freckles learned that he was still living, that he had a home, and the very first money he ever had possessed was safe in his pockets, he began to grow proud. He yet side-stepped, dodged, and hurried to avoid being late again, but he was gradually developing the fearlessness that men ever acquire of dangers to which they are hourly accustomed.

His heart seemed to be leaping when his first rattler disputed the trail with him, but he mustered courage to attack it with his club. After its head had been crushed, he mastered an Irishman's inborn repugnance for snakes sufficiently to cut off its rattles to show Duncan. With this victory, his greatest fear of them was gone.


Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Xander punch an evil knife-wielding clown right in its evil knife-wielding clown face during a fear-based episode in one of the earlier seasons. In fact all the characters had to face their fears, but he was the only one who literally knocked his out.
  • Joey on Friends advocated facing your fears:

 ...the way I see it, you face your fears same as anything else, you've got a fear of heights, you go to the top of the building. You've got a fear of bugs... get a bug. In your case you've got a fear of commitment so you go in there and be the most committed guy there was.

  • In Deep Space Nine when held in a Dominion dungeon Garek is found to have claustrophobia. None the less he goes into a tight space to work on the escape. After all when songs were sung of the deeds of Worf and Martok, a verse about the tailor who proved to be a wuss might have ruined the song.
  • Happens a couple of times in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with Zack's fear of spiders and Billy's fear of fish.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: In order to claim possession of Horror's Hand (which makes people see their worst fears come to life). Billy, Mandy, and Irwin must face their fears to overcome it. Billy is afraid of Spiders, Clowns, and the mailman, so he has to encounter a Spider-Clown-Mailman. Irwin is afraid of bears and stand-up comedy. Cue him doing stand-up comedy in front of a pack of bears, then promptly getting mauled by them. Mandy must overcome her fears of the possibility of growing up to become a nice person and marrying Irwin. Once she gets over that, she also gets mauled by the bears.
  • Scooby Doo has some moments when the titular character would realize he was the only thing standing between his friends and the villain, and promptly curbstomps them in an incredible display of courage. One example is the second live-action movie, Monsters Unleashed, where, backed into a corner he pretty much saves the day.
  • Recess: When TJ develops a fear of "The Box" (which is basically solitary confinement), Gretchen suggests framing TJ for a crime so he'll have to face his fear. However, she does lampshade the fact that this would either force him to face his fear or just make things worse.
  • Pinkie Pie's "giggle at the ghostly" song from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:

 When I was a little filly and the sun was going down,

the darkness, and the shadows, they would always make me frown.

I'd hide under my pillow from what I thought I saw,

but Granny Pie said that wasn't the way to deal with fears at all!

She said, Pinkie you gotta stand up tall, learn to face your fears,

you'll see that they can't hurt you, just laugh to make them disappear!

  • Korra is terrified of Amon and spends an entire episode in fear of potentially facing him. Once she starts to gain her confidence back, she decides to face him. Unlike most instances of this trope, this actually makes it WORSE! Amon and his Equalists easily subdue her and Amon proceeds to psychologically rip her to pieces leading to a Heroic BSOD right afterwards.

Real Life

  • Obviously, this can work, (it's anxiety exposure and response reduction) although normally it is done carefully by psychologists as therapy.