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  • Writer's pictureMichael Holme

The smell of fear

There are at least two books I wish I could have simply uploaded into my brain, leaving the rest on my “never likely to be read” list. Perhaps direct upload will become closer to reality eventually, as in the imaginative film, Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. Until then, the ability to read is gigantically powerful, but was never a skill at a serviceable level for myself.

Regrettably, I expect the pair I allude to, might have clarified later in life, where my personal and overriding fear was rooted, and could have helped me to overcome it. Those books are John Bowlby’s “A secure base”, and Susan Jeffer’s “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.

I highlighted the noun “fear” previously, to reinforce its singular form. That’s because fear originates from a point. The alternative is implausible because it would imply a synchronisation of emotional triggers. My blog on page 100, Sin begets sin, suggests a similar seeding mechanism, but whilst both sin and fear are insidious, the former is more personally controlled or curtailed, whilst the latter suffers external dictates.

One of the most challenging aspects of fear, is the degree of insight coupled to it. For example, it is possible to be scarred, and personally not realise it, because your own behaviour fails to inform. The younger you are, and God forbid if you are a child, there’s great scope for your fear to grow, and it could then form part of your emerging personality.

Greater degrees of fear trigger automatic responses, such as is found in nature, like the kind exhibited by gazelles to avoid their capture by predators. That same primitive emotion has featured in our own ancestors, from the beginning. The problem today is not that it is still there, but disproportionately strong, because we are no longer chased by sabre-toothed tigers.

Much of what determines how individuals succeed, in developed, capitalist democracies, is not qualification based, as my own state school implied. It’s not who you know; though that can help more than qualifications, but rather, it's much more basal indeed. It relates to the savannah, or jungle. It’s about courage, initiative, and strength. For some people those factors are compromised before “adult” life begins.

I called this blog “The smell of fear” because it’s not just about failing to get on over pathological levels of stress, anxiety, and/or fear, regardless of how others view the severities, but it’s the emerging numbers of lions, snakes, and hyenas, in other words, thieves, opportunists, and bullies. Offices become the savannah, and society the jungle. Without saying anything, your body language betrays everything that is exploitable about you, making you a gazelle on constant alert.

Worse than this, if you don’t view predators for what they, and that they’d just pick someone else if not you, then paranoia emerges from your anxiety, as your fear keep growing and trust vanishes. It’s a process, and you increasingly see just badness, whilst losing more and more sight of the good. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s called “confirmation bias” by psychologists.

Like drug habits, sex addictions, gambling, alcohol, selfishness, greed, or the above referenced general term “sin”; the key is to not initiate behaviours. That might be part of the reason that Christians erase “original sin” through infant baptisms. But not everyone has the option to dodge fear, especially children. God help those whose insight fails, stakes rocket, and all solutions evaded personal resources.

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