Submitted Date 03/02/2019

Fear left unchecked becomes a virus.

I skipped my routine this morning. I usually wake up at 6:30am, make a protein shake, write, meditate, say my affirmations, etc. I make it a point to not look at my phone for about an hour after waking up, but today I found myself perusing Facebook.

I opened my cousin’s story and saw a grotesque humanoid cartoon staring at me through large sunken eyes. It was accompanied by warnings about how this monster was slipping evil ideas into kid’s minds while they watch their children’s shows. I don’t usually get that spooked, but it was enough to make me light a bundle of sage and smudge my apartment. Call me superstitious, but this ritual always makes me feel better. Love me some placebo. Visualization and belief are powerful.

My cousin was unknowingly spreading a hoax. She heard it on the news and was innocently warning others, but that’s the exact domino effect that fake news thrives on. Sometimes the stories have very little truth behind them, but not enough to justify the hysteria. This fear-based game operates like “telephone” and has shape-shifted over time. It works so well because it triggers the primitive biochemical and emotional reactions we have as humans. The tide pod challenge, condom snorting, and other similar rumors echo here as well.

I can be naive when it comes to the darkness inside humans, and I often find it hard to understand why some people intentionally harm other people. I’m talking specifically about the sadistic pleasure people gain from spreading lies to perpetuate fear. In the case of the monster, the truth about the root of this rumor appears to be muddy. What I can gather is that these ideas are initially spread out of sadistic pleasure, control, to create a distraction, or all three.

Fear is the weapon of choice for propaganda of any kind. Fear holds the potential to render the masses obedient, add anger and you have a toxic duo capable of wreaking havoc at both micro and macro levels. Paranoia and hysteria combined with groupthink are weapons of mass destruction.

We all know fear, but people who have struggled with anxiety disorders or people who are highly sensitive have a different relationship with this emotion. Trauma and phobias allow fear to become the governing force in their lives. Not everyone has this relationship with fear, but for those who have trouble regaining control of their own minds are more susceptible being manipulated.

My relationship with fear has improved with time, but it has taken many years of mindfulness, meditation, some therapy sessions, and experience to get to where I am today. Phobias and excessive anxiety ruled my childhood. When I realized my relationship with fear was seeping into my adult life, I took action to change it.

Experience has taught me that the world rarely operates in the easy faith of binary oppositions. Up until this point in the story fear has been labeled as the enemy.There is no cowboy western “good guy, bad guy” solution--the solution involves management and mindfulness. The binary opposition mentality fuels fear, anger, and sadism. Want concrete examples? Take a look at any inflammatory Facebook thread. You know the story: conservatives vs. liberals, race x vs. race y, right vs. wrong. Complexity has no room here.

Fear has a duty to protect us from actual danger. A healthy relationship with fear is needed--especially when you’re potentially in danger. I’m thankful fear activated in my mind any time I encountered a dangerous stream crossing or crossed paths with a rattlesnake while I was hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail.

It seems to go against our nature to approach highly emotional situations with the patience and understanding of a spiritual leader. A good first step in taking control is knowing, without fear or paranoia, that you’ll be confronted with the temptation to surrender to fear daily. Many news stations and talk shows thrive on it. Observe the color schemes, text, and word choices used. Everything is an urgent emergency that demands your attention. Do your mind and body a favor: change the channel, turn it off, or walk by with full awareness of any fear and anger that might’ve adhered itself to you. Can you imagine the constant barrage of cortisol you’d have pumping through your veins if you chose not to shut that off? Hello health problems.

You ultimately have control over what you allow into your mind. Take care to preserve your relationship with fear. Remember how important it is to stick together through attempts made to drive us apart.

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