Fear and Love are the main drivers for all human behaviour, and this fact is accurate for every person that has ever lived, but we differ greatly in how we believe to best achieve this.
We all have a mix of conservative and liberal views, we are positioned along a continuum which as liberal values at one end, and conservative views at the other. We appear along this continuum at different points from one another and also from ourselves with reference to different subjects, topics at at different time and in different situations.
I lean towards stability and responsibility in some situations while favoring innovation and a more carefree attitude in others. I feel reassured by politicians and celebrities that I am familiar with, and that I trust (there aren’t many of those to be honest), but also embrace change and uncertainty at times.
Conservative values come from beliefs that resist CHANGE, and carry the narrative that change equals uncertainty, risk, threat, and/or danger. Those with Conservative values that feel under threat crave the reassurance of something and someone familiar.
Research shows that people who identify as having liberal values often display conservative tendencies when they feel threatened, and those that classify themselves as conservatives display liberal tendencies when they feel less inhibited.
I was recently researching Simon Baron-Cohen’s hypothesis Empathising-Systemising theory, which suggests that people may be classified on the basis of their scores along two dimensions: empathising and systemising.
It supposedly measures a person’s strength of interest in empathy (the ability to identify and understand the thoughts and feelings of others and to respond to these with appropriate emotions) and a person’s strength of interest in systems (in terms of the drive to analyse or construct them).
Well I consider systemising to be a conservatively based trait. The need to take things apart and figure out how they work, and to organise processes into routines, that are easy to understand and follow, I hypothesis, come from a desire to make us feel less threatened by our environment and more in control of our destiny.
Empathising could also be considered fear based trait, but its an alternative strategy to achieve the same thing as systemising, but in a more inclusive way. It could also be perceived as a way to spiritually connect with others, to get outside of ourselves. Empathisers figure that understanding others makes them less vulnerable to the world. It’s the same desire as the conservative, but employs a completely different strategy to achieve it.
Now let’s consider the diffusion of innovation bell. This attempts to explain why some people embrace innovation quicker than others. At one end of the scale you have the Early Adaptors and at the other, Laggards.
So why do Laggards resist change, because they crave the status quo, they like to keep things the same, because they fear change, which is a conservative trait. On the other hand Early Adapters focus on the new thing because it brings with it opportunities rather than risk and danger, which is a liberal trait.
So while you might consider yourself coming from a more conservative or liberal mindset, the underlying desire for pleasure and need to avoid pain are the same in everyone. We are more similar than we are different. We love and fear in the same way, but our beliefs shape our strategies for navigating the world so that we avoid pain and find pleasure.
We should embrace different views because they open our minds, and give us ideas for alternative strategies for achieving the same goals.
Fear of LOSS, fear of DISAPPOINTMENT, fear of REGRET and fear of LONELINESS are often quoted as some of the most feared sadness emotions.
Loss and disappointment
Fear of loss and disappointment are often behind why we avoid doing things, such pursuing goals and dreams, I’m talking about the fear of loss in terms of losing money, property or time rather than losing people and relationships. We often experience this kind of fear so strongly, that it paralysis us into inaction.
This is a fairly understandable reaction with fear of loss, after all, you don’t want to be plowing your hard earned money into an investment which has the potential of wiping you out if you get it wrong.
However the fear of disappointment can be easily re-framed by shifting your perspective and looking more critically at your perceptions and the underlying and often shaky beliefs that they are built on.
When it comes to fear of loss in respect of people and relationships, fear of loss often manifests itself in being over-protective towards loved ones, or jealous of their attention with others. Some people avoid falling in love, for fear of having to deal with the possibility of that relationship coming to an end in the future, either because of it breaking down or because of the death of one of the parties. The quote “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never of loved at all”, comes to mind here, but we all know from experience, that it doesn’t feel so clear cut when we’re going through the grieving process.
Regret comes from making choices, that in retrospect you might wish you hadn’t taken on, including the choice of doing nothing. It’s about looking back on your life or a section of your life and wishing you’d have made better decisions when they presented themselves. The fear of regret is about mitigating the risk of being in such a dreaded future situation.
There are many other situations that cause sadness, some being;
Drug addiction and substance abuse
Unemployment and financial hardship
Terminal illness and chronic pain
and while I’ve not gone further into detail with these (because I wanted to keep this article to a reasonable length), they are no less valid than the ones I have detailed previously.
Fear of the future
Fear of the future occurrence of any sadness emotions, while understandable in some respects, is an irrational fear. We can’t know for sure how one decision and one choice will unfold and impact us, in the future. I like the Zen parable; Is that so, for a good illustration of this point.
Sure we can mitigate the risks, by improving our knowledge, doing our homework and due diligence and making the best educated decision, at the time.
But we must be aware that there may be many variables in play that we may not be in control of, or even aware of; the unknown, unknowns, the known unknowns etc.
That’s why it’s always good to have a plan B, a backup plan that helps hedge your position, if things go pear-shaped.
Fear comes from worrying about something imagined in the futures, and often fear and worry are over played in our thoughts. The reality is often not nearly as bad as we’d anticipated.
Obviously terminal illness, chronic pain and future traumatic experiences can be mitigated, by trying to refrain from behaviours that could make them more likely to occur, such as avoiding smoking, substance abuse or putting yourself in risky situations, but simply worrying too much about their potential occurrence, can be draining and stressful, and probably best avoided.
Dealing with Sadness
So what do we do when we’re stuck in the emotion of sadness? When it’s here and real.
Dealing with emotion, is about facing it, rather than running away from it. I’ve known people that have used alcohol, and substances to escape dealing with emotion, It doesn’t appear to work for them, in fact, it often compounds problems and adds to an already difficult situation.
Feeling trapped and unable to cope, thinking there is no hope or no way out can result in a downward spiral of emotions, if allowed to do so.
Pain is an inevitable part of life, everyone deals with sadness and pain more generally, to some extent, and finding a way to reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing or increasing coping resources is where the answer ultimately lays.
Support networks are vital, if you don’t have the luxury of having good people around you, in your family and friends circle, there are many great specialised organisations, that want to help. Never feel you have to deal with any emotion or situation alone.
It is possible to find pleasure and purpose in life again, it really is. Just find the resources within you, to find those resources that are out there to help you navigate your way through.
Did you know we wear masks, and hide behind the social roles we play; we might be a parent, a brother/sister, a son/daughter, we might be a boss, an employee, a friend. We might be Bill the marketing guy, or Jenny the supplies manager. You might be a son, a dad, a brother, a boss to some, a subordinate to others, and Bill the marketing guy within a single day.
We play roles and wear masks because we’re conditioned by society to, after all, everyone is doing the same.
We might even get some comfort from this fact, we feel less vulnerable hiding behind a persona.
As a result, we don’t connect genuinely with others. We interact Ego to Ego, rather than soul to soul. My mask is communicating with your mask, and we’re not getting close to the real people below the surface.
Relationships are fearful, fraught, fragile, self serving and dysfunctional, because when we act from within our roles, from behind our masks, we know intuitively we are not being true to ourselves, we are pretending and we know this deep down, even if we don’t want to admit it.
So, be authentic, drop the mask, come from behind your social roles, and let your inner light shine through. If you fear rejection or the feeling of vulnerability, realise this is only the Ego (the part of you that mistakes your thoughts to be who you are) struggling to hold on to power. When you genuinely let yourself go, you can’t be hurt, particular if you fear you will fall, because outside the Ego there is no floor to hit, metaphorically speaking.
Fear and fearfulness can be a real disabler, stopping you dead in your tracks and keeping you from pursuing your dreams and goals.
Fear manifests in the form of…
Making up excuses,
Doubt in own ability,
Anxiety, where there is an imbalance in perceived ability and requirements,
These behaviours come from some underlying fear, it could be fear of failure, fear of… coming to harm, even death, embarrassment, vulnerability, loss, poverty, change, uncertainty, discomfort, rejection… the list goes on.
Fear is a mind-construct and comes from working through scenarios of what might happen in the future, but because it’s thought-based it inevitably will be biased towards self-preservation and minimising risk and uncertainty where possible, because that’s what thoughts are conditioned to do.
Doing anything new, moving away from your comfort zone, will cause a fear reaction. It does so for everybody to some degree. The difference between those that act and those that don’t is confidence and risk-tolerance.
Some people naturally believe more in themselves or have been brought up to have confidence in themselves and are prepared to tackle uncertainty and risk, because they feel they will find a way through to a successful conclusion, no matter what.
Others have been conditioned to believe risk is dangerous and to play safe and/or have been brought up in such a way as to have their confidence eroded to the point that they just don’t want to take a chance.
Confidence is often built-up or demolished in childhood years, and the beliefs about ourselves, that are subsequently formed, follow us into adulthood.
We should increase self-awareness and truly challenge any limiting-beliefs, because often they are more likely to be reflection of the self-doubt of the very people who discouraged us from taking risks, dealing with uncertainty and change, rather than of us, as individuals.
Discouragement and warnings of what might go wrong, may have been made with the best intentions of keeping us safe, but result in a self-imposed prison.
Because they may be long-standing beliefs, it may take some time to break out of the groove they have imprinted on our minds and patterns of thinking, but bringing them into AWARENESS and challenging them is often the all important first step.
Repetition of a new empowering belief will form a new neural pathway through the power of habit. Put simply, replace bad habitual thinking patterns with good ones.
The old saying, “NEWS SELLS” isn’t exactly accurate, rather fear and drama sell.
This is important to understand when thinking about the mainstream media (companies such as BBC, ITV, Sky), because they all need to justify their very existence by achieving high viewing stats, without which, they would lose funding such as sponsorships, advertising spend, TV licence and subscriber fees etc.
You could also include the tabloid press, who additionally, are also heavily biased towards their owners political agendas, are biased in their reporting and don’t try to pretend to be impartial or true to the full facts. However when writing this post I was mainly thinking about TV based mainstream media, however newspapers have the same commercial needs and employ many of the same tactics for keeping readers interested.
So, how do they ensure they get these all important viewing figures? Well, simply presenting the news, the facts, just isn’t going to cut it. Facts are boring, they can be communicated in a matter of minutes. That won’t do, that won’t keep people viewing. The news, containing just the facts is a commodity after all, it is the same wherever it is communicated.
Sure there is some merit in uncovering a buried story and shining a light on it. But that’s hard, requires talented journalism, it takes work, time and detection skills, and such stories are hard to come by, at least sufficiently enough to fill the necessary air time.
On the other hand, drama and fear is easy, a emotive narrative can extend a news piece indefinitely. You have the facts, but you present them in such a way as to keep viewers attention. If you can tell the story more dramatically than anyone else, you’re onto a winner, you’ve differentiated yourself from the competition, the news is no longer a commodity.
How do you keep attention? You take a event, and you create a narrative around it, making it into a dramatic story. For this to work and for it to be dramatic enough you have add fear and uncertainty, that’s what make stories interesting.
Let’s use something current to illustrate the point, the recent general election;
Conservative party with leader Theresa May won the election,
Conservative party won with a greater share of votes than since Margaret Thatcher won power,
Conservative Party got almost as many seats as all the other parties combined,
But not quite as much as all the other parties combined, which means the Conservatives are a minority government (8 seats short of an overall majority), which could make it difficult getting policies passed in the house of commons,
If they could get agreement from another party (who hold more than 8 seats), this would allow them to have a combined majority, and make it much easier to get policies through the house of commons,
Labour party came second with less votes and less seats than the Conservatives. They could in theory hold office, if the Conservatives decided they could not, and relinquished power, but Labours situation would be even worse than that of the Conservatives , so would be very unlikely.
Votes – 13,667,213
Seats – 318 (326 needed for overall majority)
Vote Share – 42.4%
Votes – 12,874,985
Seats – 262
Vote Share – 40.0%
Now you create a narrative. Okay the Tory party won, but they were hoping for a majority and they didn’t get it, expectations weren’t met, so this can be characterised as a defeat, no, a disaster of epic proportions.
You then get the other parties to give their view of the result, and because they lost, they will naturally want to deflect any attention and criticism away from their shortcomings, and will inevitably play along with the Tory’s election disaster narrative.
How can we develop the narrative to maximise fear, uncertainty and drama? We can speculate about the inevitable P.M.s resignation. Wow this could go on for weeks, and so it goes on.
Let’s just look at a couple of different possible narratives..
Theresa May and the Conservatives were hoping for a greater majority than they originally had, but it didn’t work out. She’s now going to find it more difficult getting policies through parliament and will need to recruit help from other parties. This is going to be much more difficult particularly if the other parties don’t agree with those policies.
This keeps true to the Facts, it doesn’t add emotive language, it doesn’t particular fire up emotion.
Mays plan to steamroller the opposition has failed disastrously. Her intention to force through a hard Brexit and get mandate to run the country have been firmly rejected. She has lost all credibility and can’t possibly survive the growing division within her own party. And with the Labour party ready to step in and form a government should a new election be necessary, it is only a matter of time before she is forced out.
This narrative is designed to evoke emotion and moves away from the facts and adds speculation into the mix (increases uncertainty and fear). If anything, this is rather underplaying the media narrative, but you can see the difference between these two possible narratives.
Well it’s creative, it’s clever but it’s also manipulative, it’s fear mongering. It upsets, divides and causes pain and suffering in viewers who believe the BS. More scary than that, it also influences the actual events themselves. Political parties often react to what the media is saying, and position themselves to restrict the publicity damage.
Mainstream TV channels such as the BBC aren’t as obviously biased as the tabloid press, although I’m sure they are at times, when it serves them. They will more generally take any position that provides the greatest dramatic effect. They have done it to the Labour party and Corbyn in particular. They don’t discriminate in that way, their main agenda is simply to keep eyeballs on their channel, fear and drama works.
Don’t let the media fool you. To protect against this callous media manipulation….
Understand the underlying facts. Make your own informed judgments based on these only,
Screen out the media noise based on assumptions, speculation and prediction,
Be aware of the emotive language used (designed to maximise viewer fear),
Understand the motivations of all the characters employed, such as the interviewees (opponents, and allies) and of course that of the actual media channel you are watching and their representatives. After all they are the ones with the most to benefit from your fear.
I recently created a couple of graphics around the idea that fear of being nothing drives us to get and thus be more. The first graphic was designed from a spiritual perspective and says:
“The FEAR of HAVING and thus BEING nothing drives our appetite to get and thus be more and more and more and more and more. In reality, we can never be nothing because we are everything.”
The second was designed from a motivational perspective, with almost the same wording and can be seen at the top of this post.
This got me thinking about how, effectively the same subject, can be viewed as a negative and a positive, depending how you choose to frame it.
What both of these graphics are saying is true, the seeming contradiction comes about because of the intent behind how “THE FEAR OF HAVING AND THUS BEING NOTHING” is used.
If we psychologically lose ourselves in this fear, being fully identified with it, it becomes a negative because we are a slave to it. It controls us, rather than the other way round.
If we use it as a technique to get us to the next level, and to grow, without fully identifying with it, it can be a good thing that positively motivates us. This is a subtle but skillful difference, which is difficult to distinguish between. However the contrast is as different as day and night.
The Fear of Change is really the fear of a possible future devaluation in our “sense of self” otherwise known as the “Ego”. It’s the fear of the unknown and sense of uncertainty about the future and what dangers that future might hold for us.
The only way to make things better than they are at present, is to make a change – change the way we think and how we do certain things. Failing to change, often results in stagnation and a sense of getting left behind, because everything around us is constantly changing whether we like it or not.
We falsely think that keeping the status quo is the safest thing to do because it’s familiar and we know we can cope with things as they are “Better the devil you know” as the saying goes. This is an illusion. Change is the only reality, so embrace it and be excited by all the possibilities that exist because of it.
The negative things we fear aren’t real, they are only imagined. We can’t deal with future threats, because they are mind projections, which we play, rather like a movie, over and over. We simulate these experiences as if they were real. We feel the sense of danger, our bodies feel the stress as if the experience was actually happening to us. It’s important to know the difference between the bear in your mind that is going to eat you and the actual bear in real life that is going to eat you. Our mind will always gravitate to the “worst case scenario”, because it’s designed to keep us alive. But many modern day situations are not life or death.
Ask yourself “What is really the worst that could happen if things don’t work out, will you die?” How many times have you dreaded a future event, only to find the reality was far less scary than you thought it would be?
I embrace change, I find it exciting. It is the only way to live in our modern world. Doors will open for you, while others may close but the journey is what life is about, not the destination. So enjoy the ride. Open your heart, open your mind. Jim Carey said it best. “Open the door in your mind and when the door opens in real life just walk through it”.
Fear results from a perceived devaluation of self, which also includes anything we’re attached to, such as ideas, beliefs, people, memories, our body’s, even our favourite football team etc. Fear is an evolutionary emotion that triggers our fight or flight response to keep our “self” alive (preserve life).
Although we can still face life threatening situations, they are less common than they were when we fighting sabre tooth tigers.
Because we absorb things we value into our “sense of self”, we can feel the same fear that we experience when our life may actually be threatened, in none life threatening situations, such as talking in public, and watching our favourite team participating in a penalty shoot out.
In life, fear can hold us back from pursuing our Goals by fooling us into thinking, we won’t be good enough, or we’ll be happier staying where we are.
In business, fear of taking action can be a result of a perceived devaluation of our sense of self:
• Failing, and not being as capable as we would like to believe we are (feel bad due devalued “sense of self”)
• Not being able to cope with the demands of our success (devaluation of “control” due to loss of control, “harmony” and devaluation to “family life”)
• Having to spend all our time working (devaluation of “family” and “leisure time”)
• Fear of the unknown (possible devaluation of “harmony” or “comfort zone”)
Manage FEAR and conflicts by identifying them, acknowledging and working through them to resolution. If your goal doesn’t accommodate what you fear you will lose in achieving it, you will remain torn.
There is always a way to achieving a goal and resolving any fears you may have in the acquisition of that goal, which are, after all, only real in your mind.
Jim Carey said it best
“There is a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that is GOING TO EAT YOU”.
Check out iamspirituality.com for more information about how your emotions work, and listen to Jim Carey’s speech below for some inspiration in following your goals. Choose Love over Fear.
If you would like to read more articles focused on FEAR, click here.