You and I live in a fear-based society. If you have never encountered this notion before, all you have to do is look at all the people out there reacting to this, that, or the other thing out of fear.
It’s everywhere. Spend any time online and it will smack you upside the head. Fear over this change or that. Being afraid of getting sick with COVID-19. Fear over the outcome of the elections. You name it, fear is everywhere you turn.
When fear is about something tangible — like a car coming at you, or something to dodge from falling on your head, or a gun pointed at you — that’s one thing. That is legit fear telling you there is a problem and you have to react.
But when fear is about something intangible — like success, failure, abandonment, lack, and scarcity, or any other notions which you cannot see and dodge — that’s another thing. And that is something that will probably do less harm than the fear itself.
People tend not to recognize intangible fears as being any different from tangible ones. Yet fear will produce the same fight-or-flight response, no matter what form it takes.
When it comes to fear you have a choice. You can give in to it or overcome it. While this is somewhat less true in the instance of the tangible, it’s true when it comes to the intangible.
Yes, caution in the face of this pandemic and practicing social distancing, handwashing, wearing masks, and other acts are a necessity. Mindfulness of this matters. But fear in the face of this pandemic makes it much, much worse than the true problem is.
Caution versus fear
It is absolutely necessary to take precautions. But there is a big difference between caution and fear.
Caution is recognizing a hazard and doing something proactive about it. You do things that will help you avoid the thing you do not desire to do or have. It takes many different forms both material and immaterial, depending on the thing you are being cautious about.
You signal turns to alert others when driving to prevent accidents. When I fence, I wear a mask and protective equipment to prevent and/or lessen potential injuries. Currently, if you go out in public you maintain social-distancing and wear a mask to lessen and/or prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Fear, on the other hand, causes panic. It causes less-than rational beliefs and responses. When people are afraid, they are reactive rather than proactive. So they jump, freeze, flee, or fight on a purely emotional response without vetting it for rationality.
How can you tell the difference? Mindfulness.
When you are mindful you are aware of your thoughts and feelings in the here-and-now. That, in turn, will tell you if you are thinking and feeling rationally or irrationally. Are you acting out of fear or acting with caution? Mindfulness will answer that question.
Being in the present is the best way to recognize and overcome fear. Especially in light of what those “in power” — especially in the USA — are doing to weaponize fear.
Using fear to maintain control
All the people who fear “socialism” and government takeovers see a violation of their freedoms. Yet nobody is holding a gun to their head insistently forcing them to maintain distance or wear masks. But their fears of losing freedom have been exploited so much that they believe these measures are the act of an overzealous government — rather than rational, scientifically vetted protective measures.
When those in power divide to conquer, fear is their favorite tool. The creation of an “us” and “them” is a creation of extremes. No middle ground because that implies compromise and surrender. The greater the extreme the easier it is to create a one-sided narrative without room for anything else.
Some people will not gather in public again until they know there is a vaccine or a cure. On the other side of the coin, some people think they are invulnerable and that the “cure is worse than the disease” or a similar narrative. On the extreme ends, some think this is all a lie to discredit the GOP or it’s a biological weapon being used to destroy our way of life.
The press loves fear because it sells. They get more views, hits on their websites, and eyes on their narrative with fear. Wittingly and unwittingly they take part in its weaponization to disempower the masses.
Yes, COVID-19 is scary. It is a dangerous virus still not fully understood by medical professionals without a cure or vaccination. The pandemic is forcibly reshaping the world. That has been a cause of tremendous uncertainty, concern, dis-ease, and ultimately fear.
As bad as the coronavirus is, the fear of it is worse. When you pause and take a rational look at it this it becomes more apparent.
Fear of the disease unhinges people
I don’t want to get sick, and I am pretty sure neither do you. But as very few of us can simply barricade ourselves in our homes we still have to go out into the world.
That means you take precautions. Wear a mask. Stay at least 6 feet away from anyone else you encounter. Wash your hands when you get home. If you have been in an enclosed space change your clothes.
Those who are more vulnerable to this virus may need to take extra precautions. It may be better to get someone else to run that errand and leave the purchase at the door. Or when you are done you strip down, wash everything, and shower as well.
These are the simple precautions and responses you can employ. Be mindful of how you are thinking and what and how you are feeling before you act. This will inform you if you are reacting in fear or more proactively taking action.
When you are less fearful you can help others to be less afraid. Your calm may be a source of calm to someone having a seriously negative and fearful reaction.
What’s more, there are likely going to be times when you are so inundated with negativity between the disease, politics, selfish greed, and outright stupidity that you become overwhelmed. Your rationality and calm go right out the window.
Congrats, you are human. This is perfectly natural. But you get to choose how long to remain in that place or to take steps to move past it. But don’t beat yourself up because you give in to the almost irresistible negativity being broadcast everywhere.
Is the fear of the thing worse than the thing itself?
Yes. And fear takes different forms for every individual. So take a moment to see and understand how fear works on you.
When more people are mindful of the power of fear and how it is often much worse than the thing you are fearful of, you can change the narrative. Seek out the positives and find calm and rational counternarratives to employ against the fear-mongering. Be proactive rather than reactive in your approach.
The only way to change a fear-based society into a reason-based one is to practice reason yourself. When you are not living from fear you are empowered. Your empowerment can empower other people, too. When they see your confidence and lack of fear (or reasoned approaches) it can encourage them to seek the same.
You cannot change anyone else. But every little chip out of the fearful collective consciousness lessens the grip of fear and those who weaponize it for their own petty gain. It will take time, and it won’t be easy — but it beats living life too afraid to truly live life.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter, as does choosing reason over fear.