I wish I could say it was an overabundance of Star Wars’ The Clone Wars*-watching that got me ruminating and pondering on the whole state of things. Not that I need any extra geek cred, but it would sound nicer than the truth.
Because I think you know what I mean when I say “the state of things”… all of the on-going politics, protests, and pretty much anything on the news. And after a lot of thinking on the matter, I think that Master Yoda had it right after all.
Fear is the path to the dark side… fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering. – Master Yoda
Have you ever seen two very frightened people in the same room? Or what about two very frightened animals in the same room?
There’s not an awful lot of understanding going on there. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There’s a lot of snarling. Teeth being bared. There’s posturing. And then there’s attacking.
In any human (or animal), any fear elicits the “fight or flight” response. The actual, physical size of the threat doesn’t always matter. It can be an emotional threat or a perceived threat. And if there’s a threat, the body reacts. The brain dumps hormones everywhere so that your body can deal with a threat – and survive. Everything else… eating, resting, relaxing, enjoying life… these all become pretty dang low on the totem pole.
The threat simply *must* be dealt with first.
And right now people are afraid of an awful lot of things.
People everywhere are terrified of being marginalized, forgotten, stomped upon and left behind. People on both “sides” of the invisible political divide have been afraid of being ignored and having their freedoms stomped upon, revoked or worse. They’re afraid of losing their jobs to offshoring or other means. They’ve been in fear of losing everything they have – or watching others lose what they have. Many people are terrified for their lives – emotionally, physically, or potentially.
And that kind of fear (any kind of fear, really) doesn’t go away easily.
Am I simplifying things? Maybe a bit. But the point is this… right now everyone is afraid. Because fear… it’s a powerful motivator. And it’s these underlying fears that are driving people right now – and it’s driving everyone very far apart.
Have you ever tried to sit down and get two people (who are terrified and afraid) to talk and come to any sort of an agreement? (Spoiler: You’ve got better odds of winning the lottery than getting them to agree on much of anything while they’re focused on their fears.)
No. It won’t work well. In fact, it’s far more effective (and simple) to play off of those fears to manipulate people into doing things. Because as you remember… fear is one of the most powerful motivators.
But while everyone is in that fearful tizzy, a whole lot of nothing good is going to happen. In fact, we’re just going to descend into a darker place… remember what Yoda said? Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering. That’s the Dark Side, friends. If you remember what happened to Anakin Skywalker, it isn’t a very happy place to be. And that’s where we’re headed, unless we can break the cycle.
How do we break the cycle of fear? How do we avoid becoming our own version of Anakin Skywalker?
The first step is recognizing that it is fear that’s driving you. I remember a time when I was so absolutely terrified of an upcoming event that I literally shook – just thinking about it. I can remember the feeling of my brain freezing up – and being unable to process anything else. And the event wasn’t even for another few months!
(Was the event life-threatening? Um, no. It was an emotional fear. But my body doesn’t know that. It’s wired to respond to fear and threat in the exact same manner as someone who’s in actual, immediate physical danger.)
We all know what fear feels like to some degree. And our bodies will react to those threats – real, perceived, emotional, or whatever. So we need to find a way to take a deep breath, take a step back, and recognize that feeling so that it doesn’t control us. Because once we do that, then we can bring in new thoughts, feelings, and approaches that actually work. And then we can make tomorrow’s current events better.
Friends, I get that you’re scared, I do. But the only place I can make a difference is within myself. And so I’m distancing myself from those things that try to prey on my fears.
First, I’m limiting my exposure to the news. Yes, current events are great. But you know what? The news has changed. It’s less focused on nonpartisan facts. It’s selling sensationalism mixed with tidbits of facts and lots of opinions. And all of those opinions and focus on sensationalism are designed to prey upon strong emotions… strong emotions like fear.
Second, I also limit my exposure to my Facebook feed. Why? Because the news is doing its job so effectively that it’s got my friends, family, and loved ones sharing their opinion-laden sensationalism even more.
Last, I’m trying to focus on those things that bring me joy and peace. Why? Because fear cannot exist when you’re full of joy and peace. For me, that means focusing on reading my scriptures. It means watching Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam* with my kids. It means playing games and spending time with my family.
It means filling my soul full of happiness so that the fear is kept in a galaxy far, far away from me.
And once the fear is contained and banished, it means using both my head and my heart to make smart decisions.
That’s why this week I’m using my Facebook account to tell others why they mean so much to me. Because it’s time to fill up our feeds and news with joy – and banish that fear. Then maybe… just maybe… we all stand a chance together. Will you join me?
*Affiliate links may be used in this post.