Fear is the Path To…

Fear is the Path To…

I write the following with love, compassion and concern for all of us: Living will always be dangerous – every day we risk illness, injury, pain and heartbreak. Despite that we should make our decisions from a place of confidence and knowledge. We need to understand that we’re all vulnerable to manipulation and that it’s constant work to overcome it. Overcoming fear builds strength and it’s true: Strong people are harder to kill.

Growing up I was largely influenced by my grandmother, who, rest her soul, was a level 10 worrier. While she was certainly an upbeat and positive person, she always seemed to experience low level, chronic anxiousness and fretfulnes
Whether this is an genetic inheritance of mine or simply social exposure is unclear, but I’ve always battled a case of The Worry.

I was a serious, bookish and contemplative child. I developed an internal monologue that led me to thinking the following: if I am able to anticipate a particular bad thing happening, then I would be able to prevent that particular bad thing from occurring. You can imagine the snowball effect that kind of pondering would entail.

When I was going through the teenage angst phase (boy, would I like to have the perspective then that I have now) I was seriously concerned that I was losing touch with reality. I remember thinking that I wished I could just go ahead and go crazy so that I would be done with worrying about going crazy. That was fun!

It wasn’t until my twenties that I began to take myself a little less seriously. But by that time I had begun a career in EMS. The nature of the work caused the worry meter to rise. Over the years, I watched folks die in a variety of ways. At times it was sudden and unexpected. Other times it was a gradual, painful process. I have witnessed peaceful deaths but I have also seen violent ones. I have seen the results of a lifetime of bad decisions, the tragedy of a single poor decision and many, many cases of just sheer bad luck.

Anyone in EMS or related service knows that on certain calls, it’s easy for your brain to replace the face of that patient with the face of your spouse, child or parent. It’s wearying.

But sharing all this isn’t about forming a pity party. It’s about bringing out into the light the source of our fears and how to face them head on and not allow them to steer our decisions.

In chronic doses, fear, its fallout and our body’s way of reacting to it directly affects our health.
Fortunately there’s a positive snowball effect when we begin to disassemble this process and understand its components. You can rebuild a resilient psychological foundation when you begin to unearth the sources of fear and anxiety.

For example, about two years ago before I decided to quit drinking alcohol, my main hold up was the fear that I would lose my ability to socialize. I quit anyway, deciding to accept the potential consequences and figured that the health (mental and otherwise) benefits of being sober would outweigh any social losses. For the most part, I was right. I also don’t go out and socialize as much, especially when drinking tends to be the focus of the event. Do I miss it sometimes? Sure, but it isn’t worth the internal battle that it had become. In fact, since I quit drinking, I’ve been able to be a better friend and a more focused husband. As well, I’ve been able to support those in my life who are also questioning their relationship to alcohol or who have also decided to stop.

That small step encouraged me to move forward.

From my observation of the state of society, the collective consciousness seems to be latching onto one fear or another along a variety of paths. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken several divergent paths myself as I’ve worked to unearth accurate and balanced information regarding this pandemic.

First I was fearful that we were facing a very aggressive illness that none of us had any natural immunity against.

Then I became concerned that the widespread shutdowns were going to result in deep despair for so many people.

Following that, I developed concern that some types of authoritarian minded individuals (government or otherwise) would try to use this crisis to gain greater power over others. I had concerns that those in power could use against us our own desire not to harm others.

Now after monitoring things locally and nationally, looking at hard facts, not just anecdotes or hearsay, I’ve concluded that the virus is not especially dangerous to the healthy individual. I’ve also concluded that the governmental response has been as poorly thought out and executed as most everything else the government attempts to coordinate. Finally, an and ultimately, as always, it’s my personal decision how to move forward. I have made the choice not to be fearful.
This adamant rejection of being led by fear means that it’s much harder to manipulate me into believing the narrative.

Although I try, I cannot anticipate exactly what is to come in terms of economic disruption or societal shifts. But I do know that acting from a place of truth and trust is far more effective than wallowing in fear and uncertainty.

It’s no secret that advertisers use fear as a motivator to urge us to buy something we don’t need. Fear is also used to convince people that they need to part with their rights in order to gain security.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, we’re being led to fear a fellow person simply because they may be a vector for disease. Previously we’re led to fear by someone who looks different or speaks another language. Now we’re being told, literally, that anyone could potentially harm us. Our commonalities are being further split apart.

Fortunately, we reserve the right to be contrary towards popular opinion.

Fear has its place as a means to keep ourselves from harm. But if we are being persistently instructed to remain fearful (also known as being safer at home) we have to question it just like we must question anything else that gives us pause. Are our actions being led by fear first and foremost? Call it out on its bullshit then. Turn off the damn television. Don’t just automatically cancel events that have great meaning and are a source of connection and happiness! Live your life!

Personal sovereignty and collective good are not mutually exclusive. A person can act with self interest while still demonstrating respect and building community. We should all support each other’s desire to live a free and fulfilling life. In that sense, we are in this together and if we take action to acknowledge one another’s personal sovereignty and to show others that we are free to conduct our lives fully, I don’t see how we can go wrong.