Like many, I have drastically cut down on my Facebook time. Most of what I see posted is based in fear, negativity, and attacking the “other.” No matter what your political or life views are, it is easy to see people of all types feeding into this fear. In fact, many of us are addicted to it. Fear appears to be a theme of our current human existence.
I read a great piece in Psychology Today about the true source of fear. In my previous writings based on the science I had read, a little part of the brain called the amygdala was responsible for fear. But Joseph E. LeDoux Ph.D., amygdala expert, makes an important distinction. He states that “[the amygdala] is responsible for detecting and responding to threats, and only contributes to feelings of fear indirectly.” Danger detection is one of the responsibilities of the brain’s amygdala. But fear is a conscious human action. According to Dr. LeDoux, fear is the result of conscious attention, perception, memory, and arousal.
Bottom line, our unconscious brain keeps an eye out for danger to keep us safe. Our conscious brain is responsible for the feeling of fear we experience due to what we choose to focus on, how we perceive the situation, our memories of previous experiences, and the passion we instill into our thinking.
We appear to live in the age of terror. We focus on it. We are afraid of attacks from other countries. We fear clowns which are appearing throughout the world. We fear what GMO food or environmental pollution will do. Big or little, our first reaction to situations is usually to focus on the fear of what will happen. Valid threats may exist, but we are not logically focused on solving the threats. Instead we consciously feed fear.
But is fear and negativity what we want in our lives?
If fear can be created through our conscious attention, perception, memory, and arousal, I propose that hope and freedom can be created the same way.
Attention: We can see everything around us as a threat. We can perceive that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Or we can choose to see the world is evolving, bumpy as it may be, into a new age of love, acceptance, and compassion. Where are you focusing? What information are you bringing in? What news and news sources are you engaged with? Are you consuming death and mayhem, or the newest advancements and acts of kindness?
Perception: Our reality is based on our perception. Two people at the same party can experience it differently based on their unique perceptions of the host, guests, food, and music. How are you perceiving the world around you? Do you have rose-colored glasses on or are you looking for issues and challenges? Can you look past the apparent pain and see how a circumstance may actually be a catapult for growth and advancement?
Memory: Are you looking at circumstances cleanly or are you piling on your previous negative experiences? Think of animals who have been abused and then react to those who look like their previous abusers with fear and self-preserving aggression. Are you taking each circumstance at face value or looking at it through the lens of your past?
Arousal: The past few months have shown how fear stirs those to action as apparent in negative posts, protests, and anger. Another definition of arousal besides being stimulated to action is to awaken. Is now the time that you look past how you have been taught to view the world and awaken to your own world view? Is it time to stop buying into a society of fear and awaken to the possibility of a world of hope, peace, compassion, and kindness?
We consciously choose our experience. Are you creating fear or hope?