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Face Your Fears
"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 (or womans) 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. Has been known to cure Anxiety Dreams.

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.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Pretty much the entire theme of Soul Eater (particularly the anime version). Indeed the Big Bad's main failing was cowardice.
  • Chimchar had to face its fear of Zangoose to save its new teammates an episode after it switched Trainers from Paul to Ash.

Comics
  • This is the whole point of the Trial of Heart in an early ElfQuest story: Savah probes Cutter and Rayek's minds to discover their deepest fears, and then devises challenges based on those fears. Whoever succeeds will win Leetah's hand.
  • Green Lantern:
    • This is basically a major theme of it and its adaptations (especially the Live-Action Adaptation). Basically, there's a warning to the worshipers of Evil's might: when a Green Lantern learns to do that, beware his power!
    • The Sinestro Corps work using the opposite. Just like Green Lanterns must face their worst fears, so they can overcome them and use the full potential of their rings, the Sinestros must embrace them. Usually, they fight using their own fears as well as the ones of their victims.
  • In Batman comics, one wiff of The Scarecrow's Fear gas and you can expect anyone with enough will power (Cough-Batman-Cough) to have to do this. It's been a theme whenever the two face off in the comics, the animated series, and Video games.
  • The mane 5 are all confronted by their nightmares yet again in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) #6, but are all able to face them with help from each other, as well as Princess Luna and Spike.
    • Berserk Button: Even one tomato can't keep Pinkie Pie down. It just causes her to rip into the nightmare audience and end her nightmare in a flash.

Film
  • 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 Wayne 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 of being a fake, and fear of 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 in previous Friday the 13th films did not exhibit such a thing.
    • Freddy, of course, customizes his victims' dreams to exploit their individual fears and hang-ups, starting with his third film. Usually subverted, as even those who initially overcome their personal anxieties tend to get killed anyway.
  • This is a pervading theme in Boogeyman 2, since the movie is about phobias. The doctor played by Tobin Bell who has this philosohpy takes this to the extreme when he locks a patient afraid of the Boogeyman in a closet.
  • In Take Shelter, Curtis' wife is pushing him to overcome his fear and open the door to the storm shelter which he finally does.

Literature
  • In Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe, this is the purpose of the Chamber of the Ordeal. Prospective knights (and monarchs) are required to enter it for a night, and it will test them to their limits. 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.
    • In Protector of the Small, Kel has a Face Your Fears moment four years before going through the Ordeal when she's forced to climb down Balor's Needle with her more terrified maid at the end of Page. In the next two books, it's mentioned that this broke her fear of heights (although she still dislikes them).
  • Dune:
    • The Litany against fear 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 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."
  • Invoked in Galaxy of Fear when the characters go to a theme park and find the Nightmare Machine, a new attraction in which people are scanned and presented with excruciatingly realistic simulations of their worst fears, and 'win' by making it through to their last fear. They're a little appalled at the idea that anyone would try this attraction out and are told that basically it's just another continuation of theme park attractions in general - people like being scared in a safe setting. Of course, the two mains end up trapped in a dire simulation, the bailout phrase doesn't work, and they have to Win to Exit - and as soon as they realize this is the case, they stop running. The greatest fear of both siblings is losing the other one. It works.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane is terrified of fire, but he manages to win when Berric Dondarrion fights him with a Flaming Sword.
  • In BIONICLE Legends #5: Inferno, Irnakk, an evil bogeyman-like figure from the folktales of the Piraka's species, is brought to life in the Zone of Nightmares and defeats five of the Piraka by subjecting them to their worst fears. Zaktan, however, stood up to him after realizing that this Irnakk was only an illusion (albeit with real powers) and threatened to kill himself and his team, proclaiming that his horrible life had made him lose his fear of even death. Since Irnakk, being born out of their collective fears, could only exist as long as the Piraka lived, suddenly began fearing death and disappeared, allowing the Piraka to progress.

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.
  • Friends:
    • Joey 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 later season episode, it's revealed that Rachel suffers from a swing phobia and is afraid of letting her daughter Emma swing. Ross thinks it's ridiculous, but Rachel reminds him of his irrational fear of spiders. They both try to face their fear for Emma's sake at the end of the episode, but they are both extremely uneasy.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The only way to escape a Dominion internment camp is for Garak to rewire an old computer system hidden inside a narrow gap inside the walls. Eventually, he experiences a full catatonic breakdown because he suffers from acute claustrophobia (which he'd been trying to keep secret). As the other debate a new plan, Martok contemplates getting a poem written about about Worf's fighting prowess and Bashir's medical skill. Garak suddenly reveals his presence by quipping that a verse about the Cardassian who panicked in the face of danger would ruin Martok's song before promptly returning to the computer system to finish the job he started. For this, he earns the respect of the Klingons who believe facing one's personal fears is the greatest enemy anyone can ever fight.
  • Happens a couple of times in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, with Zack's fear of spiders, Trini's fear of heights, and Billy's fear of fish.
  • An episode of Boy Meets World had Rachel forced to confront her fear of garbage disposals (caused by the childhood trauma of putting her beloved stuffed bunny down the "rabbit hole" in the sink and then flipping the wrong switch when she tried to turn the light on so he could see the carrots inside) when Eric made climbing over one the only way out of the homage to The Truman Show he had trapped her and Jack in. Rachel succeeded, both "for Bunny Baby," and so she could get to Eric and beat him up.
  • Hornblower: It's established that sailor Hornblower is afraid of heights. In the last episode of series 1 "The Frogs and the Lobsters", he climbs atop of the mast for no particular reason other than enjoy the sail, and he smiles and looks fairly happy. In series 2 episode "Retribution", he volunteers himself to descend from a high cliff. However, when his friend mischievously reminds him of his former anxiety, he says that nothing has changed and that he's still frightened.
  • Boston Legal - Brad urges Alan to do this during a case involving a professional clown. Alan, who's spent most of the case terrified of wetting himself, manages to deliver his closing, shake the clown's hand and tweak his fake nose.
    Brad: At some point, every man, even the half-evolved kind, needs to confront his fears. You need to stand up and deliver this closing.
    Alan: Will the clown be there?

Video Games
  • Rikku has a major Fear of Thunder in Final Fantasy X. We're told in Final Fantasy X2 that she camped out for a week in the Thunder Plains and got over it, sure enough in X-2 she's walking around the Thunder Plains merrily.
  • Not necessarily fears, but most of Persona 4 has to do with the main characters facing the manifestations of their insecurities. Although this is after they've rejected them, and then the rest of the party has to beat the crap out of the shadow to keep it from killing the original.
  • Devil May Cry 3 invokes this trope, among others, with the Shadow boss battle. The Shadow, as is often the case in classic heroic tales (and Jungian Psychology) is meant to invoke Dante's doubts and fears (giving the boss fight distinct shades of Battle in the Center of the Mind), but when confronted by it, Dante simply responds with:
    Dante: I know why you're here. You're here to ask me some questions, aren't you? Well too bad. I already answered them myself. I don't need you anymore.
    *The Shadow draws its sword.*
  • Red from Solatorobo has to face the idea of losing control and killing everyone he loves during a Virtual Training Simulation Journey to the Center of the Mind. As a warm-up, he faced Elh's greatest fear, which is bugs.
  • Haunting Ground: Fiona is forced into a position where she has to face her pursuer and fight at the end of every chapter. Arguably, the best time she is seen doing this is the A Ending, where she realises Debilitas is behind her, turns, looks him square in the eye and leaves without a word.
  • The plot of Evil Dead: Hail to the King is kicked off by the main character Ash, with his girlfriend Jenny, returning to the cabin which is the source of his fears and nightmares, in order to get rid of them. Unfortunately, his evil possessed hand is still present there, and it lets loose the deadites which forces him to fight them once more.

Western Animation
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & 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.
  • Parodied in Chowder. In the episode The Meach Harvest, Mung Daal refuses to harvest the queen meach due to his fear of the meaches guarding her whilst Chowder keeps trying to encourage him to face his fears. This would be considered playing the trope straight, except for the fact that meaches are vicious bloodthirsty living fruits with More Teeth than the Osmond Family that maul anything that gets within 100 yards of them en masse. He has good reason to be afraid of them. Lampshaded at the end of the episode.
    Mung: Thank you Chowder for giving me the courage to foolishly face my entirely rational fear!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Pinkie Pie's "Giggle at the Ghostly" song:
      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!
    • Scootaloo is taught this by Princess Luna in "Sleepless in Ponyville" when Rainbow Dash's scary stories give her nightmares.
      • Although that episode played with the trope a bit, as initially it doesn't work. Why? Because Scootaloo actually had a bigger fear than the monsters in Rainbow Dash's stories: the fear that telling Rainbow Dash about the "monster fears" would cause Rainbow Dash to reject her. The nightmares don't stop by confronting the monsters, they stop when Scootaloo finally tells Rainbow Dash that there's a problem in the first place.
  • The Legend of Korra: 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.
  • Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable has to confront his fear of monkeys when he faces off against Monkey Fist alone, by absorbing the Mystic Monkey Power that Monkey Fist coveted for himself. Ron's fear of monkeys is still present in later episodes, but lessened over time; in "A Sitch In Time", when ten-year-old Ron panics at the sight of a giant stone monkey, teenage Ron brushes it off while saying, "Dude, personal space."

Real Life
  • This approach can work. It's anxiety exposure and response reduction. Although normally, it is done carefully by psychologists as therapy in very slow steps like drawing schematically the object of your fears and facing it in small dosages and gradually.
  • Sometimes well-meaning friends may attempt to force another friend to "get over their fear" by throwing them smack dab in the middle of the thing that scares them. This usually does not work and can make the problem worse due to the person now having anxiety attacks or may trigger a condition they already have, such as asthma, and makes them fear the thing that scares them even more.

Enemy WithoutInternal Conflict TropesFighting from the Inside
Face Death with DignityBravery TropesFearless Fool
The DreadedFear TropesFake Kill Scare

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