On fear’s role

Through out my life, I’ve seen people blaming the Other’s lack of fear for their bad choices.  A lack of fear of the afterlife can be blamed for anything for partying to harming others. A lack of fear of suffering is blamed for risky sex or drug abuse. A lack of fear of the apocalypse is blamed for militarism or climate change denial. A lack of fear of death is blamed for not improving healthcare or addressing gun violence.

I’ve come to think this sentiment is not just wrong about the cause, but also wrong about the benefits of fear. Fear doesn’t lead to good decision making in humans. Fear activates our fight or flight responses and we make short term decisions. Fear creates reactivity, not proactivity. Fear is not a good teacher, of children, of pets, of adults. It breaks people instead. Fear is the mindkiller.

I think more often than not it is the supposedly missing fear that motivates maladaptive behavior. A fear of death drives people to feel alive and deny their mortality, a fear of being forgotten leads to Machiavellian means to rise to the top. A fear of war motivates armament build up or preemptive strikes. A fear of the world changing drastically leads one to deny things which says we must change or it will change for us. Fear is behind the hate of white supremacists, homophobic churches, and anti-islamic groups.

While many religions have strains that have adopted fear to motivate behavior, the most inspiring and uplifiting messages at the base of religion is a message of hope and peace, not fear. The bible repeatedly tells people to not fear. Buddhism places fear as one of the ways the ego protects itself. The message comes through in both that fear is behind much of the worlds pain.

If we look at the problems above, we can see why fear is a bad way to approach them. Fear of eternal death drives one to grab all the pleasure you can with no regards to the consequences. Fear of the afterlife can cause one to ignore or even cause suffering in this life in order to live by their perception of the rules they’ll be judged by. Fear of climate change may cause us to take drastic action that we can’t control. Fear of korea’s nuclear capabilities may cause us to start a war where millions will die.

We instead must listen to the fear, understand what it’s warning us of and take reasoned controlled action. We should be aware that this life has an end and make sure to not live for ‘someday’, to tell those who matter to us that we love them, and to be present. We should be aware of moral imperatives and work to leave the world better than we found it. We should be aware of the way we’re changing the planet, and try and find better ways to meet our needs and to undo the damage we’ve done for future generations. We should be aware of the dangers of war and try to avoid it.

Don’t let the external forces that you fear control your life, be proactive and thoughtful in how you respond.

Ye shall know them by their fruits.

As I sit in a hospital room looking at someone I love unconditionally, I can’t help but think of all those who didn’t. All those who taught him he must be worthy of love. All those who taught him that being him wasn’t good enough. That he must behave as expected.

How hollow their claims of concern are now. How empty their tears. How foolish their attempts to make it about them.

My inner child wants to rage and destroy them. Wipe them from the face of the Earth.  Salt their fields, poison all that they held dear. Build a new world with only those who are safe. And later I will grant him that. I will open my inner world and allow him to do as will until he feels satisfied and complete.

But here in the outer word I can simple shut them out. Allow them no more weight than they demonstrate they deserve.

People pleasing, perfectionism, irony and ironing

While ironing this morning I caught myself thinking “I’m not very good at this, but a poor ironing job is still better than wrinkles on clothes stuffed in a day bag”. I was pleased I wasn’t caught up in perfectionism and letting that get in the way, but I felt like there was more to it.

So I reflected on why I wasn’t good at it, it wasn’t a flaw in me, but a skill I haven’t practiced. Why didn’t I practice it? Because for years I pretended to not care. I didn’t iron out of people pleasing. I didn’t care because I felt more in control if I ‘chose’ to look sloppy. I worried more about doing a bad job and appearing authentically flawed than about being inaccurately cast as slovenly I was scared of vulnerability because I’d been taught I was valuable for what I can do. Not valuable for who I am.

My rebellion against people’s wishes was it’s own form of people pleasing. I was just like those who reject relationships before they can be rejected because they fear it will devalue them. I rejected ironing so that no one could reject my skill at ironing and thus devalue me.