as printed in Canvas Magazine
For the last several months there has been much talk about change. Much of this has been generated by both candidates in the past election.
THE FEAR OF CHANGE
Yet, there have been some people who are resistant to change. The reason being, we live in such contentious times and people are fearful about the uncertainty of what change may mean. Out of these fears, many end up being scared of people who aren’t like them; diversities in faiths, political affiliation, country of origin, ethnic background, along with other differences, create suspicions. The fear can often be more pronounced in the fundamental spectrum of religions and beliefs. Questioning how firmly we hold on to being “right” is a good place to start. From a psychological point of view, this tight grasp on being “right” along with inflexible thinking leads people to narrowing down their world and perpetuates a fear-based mentality of “us” versus “them.” This bolsters black and white thinking that again helps feed the split and is a breeding ground for more fear and less change.
THRIVING ON FEAR
For various reasons, people tend to somehow thrive on fear, which can manifest in many ways. Some people love horror films for the internal thrill. Other people bungee jump or skydive for an adrenaline rush. Even though these are extremes, many of us get caught in the fear and drama of the “what ifs.” We often scare ourselves with thoughts of gloom and doom. Right now, the financial markets are an example of this. Many people’s lives are not different because of the stock market drop, but still they cut back and sell stocks because of fear. Decisions made from fear often result in negative consequences. So the question is, why is scaring ourselves pleasurable?
On some level, there must be some old brain thrill of survival that is based in our relationship with the dynamics of freeze, fight, or flight. Somehow when we have passed this test of fear maybe we feel like we’ve conquered and survived. Out of this survival instinct we clutch to what we think are solutions. This often feeds the tendency to exclude others, which can create limited thinking and behaving that result in a kind of fundamentalism. First, let’s define fundamentalism, which means a strict or unyielding adherence to a doctrine or set of belief systems that does not allow for flexibility or inclusiveness. This exclusive fundamental syndrome or exclusivity gets fed by this fear cycle and results in clinging to what’s familiar. This fear creates organizations and groups either being magnetized toward each other or repelled away from each other. It’s a dysfunctional way to feel a part of an insular group that keeps us feeling artificially “safe.”
MOVING AWAY FROM FEAR
How can we move from this fear and see the beauty in our differences and why should we want to? The reason we may want to consider such a notion is to create peace and harmony in our own lives, as well as in the world. The fear, which causes stress, certainly doesn’t help our physical bodies. The fear doesn’t help our emotional life either, which hinders our ability to be close to others or create our happiness. It also doesn’t help our spiritual life by thinking that those exactly like us are the only ones worthy of God.
How do we notice when we are holding on too tightly to being “right”? How do we challenge ourselves to learn about people who are different from us while still growing in our own beliefs? How do we see beyond the dogma and into the essence of other people’s beliefs? How do we discover that there is beauty and unity in the essence of all religions? Consider this: What leaders of great faiths have tried to convey is their window into an experience of truth. That kernel, in its core, comes from the same place. What Jesus said, what Moses said, what Mohammed said, what Buddha said, as well as others, at its essence has both beauty and truth. Taking the dogma too literally, after interpretations and usually many translations, can lead to a kind of insular righteousness. As we notice our judging and sometimes angry minds, we might want to stop going down the fear trail for a moment and try to understand what the other group or person is actually saying. Since everybody is coming from their own set of belief systems it’s going to require a little stretching of the mind and heart. From our own limited belief systems or interpretation, we think we know what other people with different beliefs mean, but instead we’re often listening through our biased fear.
HOW CAN WE AVOID THE UNNECESSARY FEAR?
Our task would be to challenge our seeing and listening skills by questioning our assumptions. Listening from the other side of the difference or having empathy could go a long way in healing this split. Taking the time to understand what truth might exist from the other perception allows a softening of heart and belly. This kind of shift in perspective is an opportunity to enter into a new paradigm. With all that is available for destroying others and ourselves, it is time to look at ourselves in new and important ways. It is imperative that we take this next step so that change can be valued.
Posted: 6/7/2010 4:31:00 PM
Yes, what you''ve written about here is the essence of resolving conflict from the inside out. It''s the key to our global transformation. xoxo
Posted: 11/7/2011 12:07:53 PM
WOW! Great post! Really enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing!