I saw a poster the other day, proclaiming “Please Do Not Feed The Fears” with a play on “Fears” rather than “Bears”. The sentiment expressed is unfortunately so typical of everything that is wrong with the media and those in authority today. It may not be a completely new concept -- instilling fear into people -- but it has certainly become much worse.
In the past few years alone, various fearful viruses have gripped global populations to such an extent that some would not travel or were reduced to wearing face masks. SARS, H1N1 flu, swine flu, ebola and now the latest measles outbreak have all been exploited to the full in an effort to make us fearful. And of course cancer has been high on the list for many decades.
But it is not just the threat of illness that makes us fearful
It can be the possibility of a swarm of African killer bees; extreme weather conditions approaching; mass shootings; road rage incidents; drunk drivers; as well as a whole host of possible dangers that could affect our children from pedophiles and abduction to grooming on the internet and slavery.
The definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm”. Synonyms for fear include terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress and more...
But why do we keep falling for it?
Well of course we are constantly fed by the headlines. Headlines sell newspapers and headlines catch the eye on TV but they also instill fear. We give too much power to the media when we react to their headlines, especially when we are unable or unwilling to discern between fact and opinion in their allegedly objective news stories. In most major news outlets, fact and opinion are used interchangeably. Carefully chosen adjectives are peppered throughout a story so that the reader, viewer or listener has the desired emotional reaction -- whether good, bad or downright fearful.
The good news is that not everyone is easily swayed. There are certain personalities who are comfortable in their own shoes, working to make the best of the human experience--they are living rather than living a life of fear. Others will embrace change, listening to suggestions, respect and consider all opinions while of course thinking for themselves.
Are there certain types of personalities that are more prone to fear?
It would seem that there are.
Some people are especially sensitive to worries and anxieties, while others seem a lot more robust.
- Studies have shown that anxiety disorders can run in families, although it's not easy to know whether this is caused by genetic factors or because family members communicate behaviour to one another.
- We all know that emotional and psychological problems are often linked to stressful life events. These can be death, divorce, accidents, illness or financial problems. But a life event does not have to be unpleasant to cause stress, because any change that requires readjustment (for example moving house or a new baby) can be stressful. Life events in the past, such as childhood trauma, can also affect the way we respond to situations in the present.
- People with a psychological tendency towards biased thinking are more at risk of developing anxiety-related problems while mood also affects the way we see things. When we are unhappy, we are more likely to respond with fear to distorted or biased reporting.
I may still worry about things (especially at 3:30 in the morning) but as I have grown older, I have learned to question more and not just accept at face value what the media or those in authority state as fact. I look for a reason behind what is being said or written; I look for an ulterior motive. When questioned enough or challenged, it is interesting how often someone will actually backtrack.