Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.
– Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)
Fear changes everything. Man, woman or child, a person experiencing fear will not act the same and will not make decisions and choices in the same way they do when their fear is at a manageable minimum.
While security is a myth as no one can live in complete security unless they withdraw from the world into a shell of a life, many people live in an excess of fear as if it were normal.
Fear is not normal, except in the sense of apprehension that prevents us from doing foolish things that could result in injury or death. Fear is made entirely within ourselves.
People who live in fear flock to places of worship that offer them solace and comfort, protection from that which makes them afraid. That protection is worn as an invisible cloak in the same way that the same people wore their fear previously. They believe in the protection with the same devotion with which they believe in their fears.
Some join extreme political parties or support measures that are extreme within mainstream parties, believing that if the “bad guys” are somehow corralled and suppressed the world will be a better place. Whether the bad guys eventually are rounded up and silenced is not as important as the feeling of power over others that passing laws that restrict the behaviour of other people not like themselves gives them. Power as a security factor works at the grass roots level as well as the top levels of politics, industry and the military. Physical and emotional abuse are the most common forms of fear showing itself as power over others.
The most usual form of withdrawal from some aspects of society as a result of fear is addiction. The addiction could as easily be to television, movies or bingo as well as to gambling, alcohol or racing cars. These are all distractions, at the start, from the causes of their fear. Excessive participation in bingo or watching an inordinate amount of television or movies has a longer term effect on a person’s life than the more familiar addictions (with damage not as severe as drugs or some other forms), but it does change people.
In general, fear makes people close their lives in, making them smaller. The unconscious attempt to control their lives by building walls around them also results in generalization and prejudice. For example, a fear of Middle East terrorists by a white North American (at least terrorists from the Middle East) might show itself as a dislike for or prejudice against Muslims in general, or for people with beards or for people with olive skin colour.
While most fears happen as a result of unfortunate accidents of fate (such as claustrophobia resulting from watching a movie about people escaping through a tunnel dug under the wall of a concentration camp), some are knowingly and consciously taught. A fear of terrorists is an example of the latter.
Of the 6.5 billion people on earth today, only an insignificantly small percentage of us have died or been injured by a suicide bomb or a sniper. Given a choice between protecting themselves from terrorist attacks or reducing climate change (aka global warming), more people would choose the protection even though the likelihood of their being harmed by a terrorist is far less than that of being struck by lightning.
Though statistics are not available, the percentage of people who openly express fear that they will lose their jobs in the near future or who strongly dislike their jobs is many times as great as the percentage who go about seeking a new job to avoid these unpleasant eventualities.
Not much is logical about the decisions of people who are afraid. They can’t be depended upon to act in logical ways all the time. Given that adopting fear unnecessarily is itself illogical, the irony is striking.
If you know someone who is afraid of something, you can only help them if they want help to overcome their fear. If they don’t want help, nothing you do can change their minds. In the sense of being devoted to their fear, fearful people are like addicts. A person with a fear can be reprogrammed, but this is a long, difficult and exacting process that the lay person would know little about.
You can walk away from someone you know who has a fear or be with them for comfort when they break down or fall apart from not being able to cope with their mounting fear. If you stay with them, you must be prepared to exercise a great deal of tolerance and compassion. Fearful people can be pretty hard to get along with. But they don’t choose to be that way.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the miserableness of some people easier to understand.
Learn more at http://billallin.com