2. The Print and the Purpose of Fear.
We are all afraid at some point in our lives, some of us routinely. Nowadays we are becoming acclimatised to daily fear rations put out through the availability of lies and statistics. Fear is a logical thing, we tell ourselves, it’s a human way of avoiding danger. But if it is so logical, why do we have to experience it negatively? Can we not just remind ourselves of the danger without the unpleasant emotion? Is there a way around this? Does the adrenaline rush which accompanies fear actually help human society at all, or is it just disabling for many? Is it now being manipulated for political gain?
Well yes, the rabbit’s tail goes up as a signal and all the other rabbits are filled with the flight chemical. This is fear at its best, most useful.
But for humans, what use is fear?
We fear social stigma, so we do what is considered “right”; we fear social exclusion, so we conform. We fear death, so we follow religion; we fear oblivion and so we rail against each faculty loss, even though it may be a faculty that some people are born without. We fear failure, so we spend huge and unmeasured money on the trappings of success.
So can the damage done by fear be a useful part of life?
Fear causes damage. This anxiety is, or seems to be, the single biggest mental health issue, and worse amongst women than men, it seems, perhaps more reported. And no-one prepares children to encounter it when they arrive in the education system. It is observed and is the subject of a great deal of record-keeping in schools and institutions, but the cause of anxiety in schools never seems truly investigated at any effective level. It is simply seen as something necessary to be overcome, but the ways of doing this are limited, and only a proportion succeed (if they actually do).
Even worse, once we have witnessed a fearful event or known of a serious illness, the print of fear arrives and stamps itself firmly on our mind, meaning that the fear can return uninvited in the form of trauma at any apparently relevant moment.
I have lived most of my life now with people who have been traumatised and I think it is fair to say that once trauma arrives, it is difficult to displace, no matter how positive we try to be or how unrealistic the fears may actually be. Fear response cannot just be “snapped out of,” and it is sometimes more effective to avoid the cause than to recognise and challenge the reaction. It can also be conveyed to others.
However, because of this time spent trying to mitigate fear, I also see a lot of what gives me hope. The human weapons we have for supplanting anxiety include life experience, social inclusiveness, humour, touch, warmth, relationships and companionship, all elements of our lives which are currently being eroded.
As we move further through the Pandemic we need to take be sure to go on enjoying our lives, loving our friends and relatives (from whatever distance is possible) and replacing the notions of social distancing with those of physical distancing, if we want to come out of the other side as stronger, less fearful and more whole personalities.
Now, more than ever, we need to cultivate a healthy cynicism and an absolute need to deal in truths directly as we cope with the increasing power and widespread manipulation of unfettered and unregulated media. In this arena, where fear sells, that same fear definitely restricts our vision and grip on actual life and important issues. The human need to be direct and to challenge, and to call out the Emperor’s lack of clothes is even more essential if we want a free society and not the current statistically-driven Climate of Fear, Superstition and Xenophobia.
My mother, an amazingly strong and individual person, seemed to have only one fear, and that was a fear of everyone being the same. She always said what she thought, and generally she had great insight and a very powerful brand of feminism and agnosticism which she simply didn’t give names to (to avoid offence). She also had one or two odd areas regarding cats, coffee and cake…..
I hope these days of privation will give us the confidence of warbabies…. but to do that we have to learn again to overcome our fear of being wrong enough to have the debates we need.
1 thought on “2. The Print and the Purpose of Fear.”
Interesting thoughts. Fear, I suppose, is a sliding scale, from full-blown chemical shutdown to tiny academic aversion. Working with fear can be a driving force too.