Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Stream of consciousness about fear

Fear is something I think about alot, because it has been so omnipresent in my life. Anxiety disorders are all about fear: fear of uncertainty, fear of danger, fear of rejection. This fear doesn't come out of nowhere, and we have seen how it has been created and spread to further political agendas and silence dissent in the last few years. We have seen people panicking because of the fear that is relentlessly drummed into them, of things that they for the most part cannot control.

Fear, of course, is an emotion with purpose; it is meant to make you keep away instinctively from things that can harm you. The reason we ultimately feel it is to preserve our lives. But fear is also harmful; it can paralyse us. We can't lose or deny fear, which is what OCDers try in vain to do, we cannot banish it from ourselves, as there is a reason we feel it. We have to live with it and learn to act in spite of it. This is what we call courage.

It is fear of the things that we cannot control, that we are told to be afraid of, of the unfamiliar that is harmful to us. Citizens are encouraged to be afraid of terrorists and to believe that the ruling class act in order to keep them safe, that measures which are immoral and cruel are neccessary, that if we don't hurt 'them', 'they' will hurt us. OCD makes the sufferer believe that if they act in a particular prescribed and rigid way, they will be safe, but that acting otherwise jeopardises their safety. Their fear of being 'bad' or having an uncontrollable problem is further increased by the fear shown by society towards those experiencing mental distress.

I believe that there is alot for everyone to learn from the behavoural therapy that encourages OCDers to act in spite of their fears. If we want to see a change from the patriarchal system of domination and exploitation of others, we will have to learn to follow our consciences, and listen to them in spite of our fear. We will have to be more afraid of the consequences of being silent, than of the consequences of not accepting the world as a place where one must either strike first, or be struck.

I have more jumbled-up thoughts on this, but I'll have to stop for a while, as I have a headache that just won't shift (staring at a computer screen is not the best medicine for this). I hope to write about the impact of fear in popular culture and in the mental health services, but for now I'm going to drink some water and feel sorry for myself.


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