Monday, June 11, 2007

The Culture of Fear

Talking of PTSD led me to think about the ubiquitous nature of fear. Fear is all around us. Fear is within us. Yet we rarely acknowledge our fear.

What are our fears? Why are we afraid of fear?

Looking at my own little self and asking these questions I get a number of answers.

I am afraid of the future.
I am afraid of losing my job.
I am afraid of losing my health.
I am afraid that my relationships are too fragile.
I am afraid that those I love are getting into trouble.
I am afraid of doing something wrong and getting myself into trouble.
I am afraid of the changes in nature and environment that are taking place around me.
I am afraid that my country may lose its political and economic stability.
I am afraid of market forces controlling and spoiling the economy.
I am afraid of the rapid changes in Indian culture.
I am afraid of certain things in my past.
I am afraid of dependence.

These are generic fears, fears that perhaps most Indians would identify with.

But there are other fears. Fears of what is inside of me. Fears of my own inadequacy. Fears of my ignorance. Fears of my personality traits. Fears of my inability to hold together relationships. Fears of my inability to share. Fears of my neediness. Fears of my inability to love, fears of untruth, and the list could go on...

The way I deal with fear is basically to try to ignore it. I do my job. I spend time with my family. I spend time with friends. I watch TV. I blog. I read the newspaper. I read a novel. I go for walks in the woods. When I think, I try to focus on objective 'stuff'. I sleep.

During each of these avoidings, I carry my fears with me. The fears cause all sorts of turmoil, all the worse for being ignored!

Fear, the fear of fear, eventually drives me to face the fear. I recognise that fear. I recognise that the fear may be justified. I recognise that I may be causing the fear. I recognise that I have to change.

The conscious fear is also an indicator (the tip of the iceberg) of a trouble spot, a trend, a trait, or as John Doyle would perhaps term it, a strand. It is something that has to be dragged out, identified, and faced. Like the pain of a real wound, fear indicates that action is required.

Being 'frozen in fear' is an expression of our response to something sudden and terrifying. We have perhaps not even had time for a 'fight or flight' response to kick in. But, most of our fears do not fall into this category. They are insidious and if they are ignored they will prove debillitating!

Fear causes stress. If there is enough fear and enough continuous stress, you may not get PTSD, but depression and anxiety are probably already knocking on your back door.

The market dislikes fear. Fearful people will not be big spenders! The culture is supported by the market. Market forces and culture cooperate to keep the whole machine smoothly running. Therefore the market, supported by culture, actively suppresses fear. One way of suppressing fear is to revel in the fears of others. Reality TV, the News, and images of Iraq, are today's equivalent of the Roman Colosseum which boasted three types of gruesome 'entertainment'; the venationes, noxii, and munera. Another market-friendly way is to sell you a pill or two!

If you look at the map of ancient Rome, you will notice that the Colosseum is called the Amphitheatrum Flavium or Flavian Amphitheatre. it is suitably situated (territorialised) outside the main city but not too far away (I wonder why malls come to mind?). The analogy is perhaps just a part of life in any civilisation. But, in order to really deal with fear, the territory that it has staked out within one's soul will have to be identified and then reterritorialised!

Real fear is not talked about. Fear is the enemy. Let's suppress those fears!

The title link takes you to the "Rome Reborn" website. Check out the video clips under the gallery, especially the Colosseum in 3D!



Odile S said...

Another friend told me fear is located in your heart. In my experience, there are many similarities between fear and pain. The way it starts, develops and diminishes ressembles pain. The most effective strategy I use to get to terms with strong fear is put my hand on my heart and go right ahead and feel it. The leap of faith.

Unknown said...

Yes, allowing yourself to really feel the pain is very important as a first step towards facing the pain/fear. It is frightening because when we come out of denial and allow the feeling it seems to get so much worse and we wonder if it will conquer us.

Odile S said...

That's how group therapy and support groups can be a great help, when members of the group support you and help you go through the moments or talk about what happened. Especially when your family and friends for whatever reason are not able to help. -it does matter that there is someone who cares.
And basically it comes down to me to the fundamental belief that 'goodness' exists.

Unknown said...

At least one persom for support is a great thing if they listen, understand and support. A good group can be even better!

john doyle said...

It's interesting that you bring up the Roman entertainments in this context. Maybe civilizations try to "outsource" their fears by creating fearful spectacles like gladiators, foreign wars, movies...

In our family we've noticed that bad moods are more "contagious" than good moods. I wonder why?

Unknown said...

Marketing encourages us to 'enjoy' the suffering of others. Even comedy is often based on pain - the more slapstick the worse!

It is a human propensity that marketers have always been happy to take advantage of and it works, people forget about their own real fears and haply spend.

The teritorialization is very important. The further away, the more remote, the more exotically remote, the better - Bond comes to mind here, the ultimately salacious combination of gladiator and handsome, sexy, spy.

As to family moods or even group moods, I agree, it's so much easier to pull down than to pull or push up a group's mood. I find that it takes at least two working together to bring a smile wheras just one grumpy person is enough to make everyone glum.


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