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Eek, A Snake! - Fears

Hello and welcome to this rare and precious Friday, September 18, 2020. Today is a gift that so many will not get to experience. Make it count.

Fears.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about this week until I went outside this morning to “inspect” my ash-covered garden. Walking down our wet rock walkway (RAIN – YAY) a slithering little Garter snake, or “Joe No-Shoulders,” as my partner DC refers to them, crossed my path. I’m completely comfortable with this little reptilian variety. DC, on the other hand, has a debilitating fear of all snakes.

Fear is a normal part of the human experience. As a species, as with most other species, we evolved with fear. Fear protects us from danger. When we become aware of a threat—poisonous snakes, lions, tigers, or bears, for instance—our awareness heightens in such a way that it informs us that we need to take some sort of action. In this way, fear is highly useful. When I used to climb vertical rocks, a healthy amount of fear improved my attentiveness and focus. With too much fear, I would tense up and was prone to make mistakes – fall. With too little fear, I found myself in life-compromising positions. It’s been a long time since I’ve climbed and, in the interim, I have developed an incapacitating fear of heights. But I’m not wanting to talk about my fear of heights or DC’s fear of snakes. Fear comes in many forms.

Dr. Paul Eckman is a psychologist who has made a career of studying emotions. In his research, he and his team have identified what he refers to as six universal emotions (anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise, and fear). While I have certainly experienced each of these emotions, I have read about and heard from others who believe that there are two base emotions from which all others emerge: fear and love. I’m not sure if Ekman would agree, but this idea resonates with me.

In its simplest form, this two-emotion notion helps me to recognize that thoughts and actions born out of fear, separate and break down relationships. Alternatively, thoughts and actions that arise out of love, connect and foster relationships. This is an over-simplification of a highly complex process. Nevertheless, at the most fundamental level, it helps me to discern if my thoughts and actions are based in fear, or love. If I’m not in any immediate danger, my intention is to live my life from a place of love and connection.

In the current political and social climate, some tend to believe that “those other people” are a threat. If I’m having these divisive thoughts (and every meow and then I do) I Mindfully recognize that these thoughts are coming from a place of separation – from a place of fear. If my evaluation of any situation starts from a place of unrecognized fear, it’s likely that the only possible outcome will be one of “justified” fear and separation. How can we possibly unite if all we see are the differences?

There seems to be a lot of fear mongering going on these days. I feel as though much of the current propagation of fear is intentional. The fact is, people who are in fear are more easily manipulated. The manipulation that’s going on is likely driven by selfish agendas. Therefore, the question I feel most compelled to ask is, “How do we know if we are being manipulated?” To answer this question, I ask myself: “Am I persuaded to break down relationships and divide us through perceived differences? – this is Fear. Or am I encouraged to build relationships founded on actual similarities? – this is Love.”

I’m in no way suggesting that we should not be discerning and thoughtful in our one wild and precious life. We certainly should. We should also create and maintain healthy boundaries. The crucial point in our assessment of any given situation: we must be aware if we are motivated by fear or love before we even begin to assess.

I believe that each of us seeks peace and happiness. Based on what I have come to understand, I don’t believe that peace and happiness can arise out of the base emotion of fear. Peace and happiness, I’m quite sure, are born only out of love.

And, I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it.

Getting to know my fears,

Dan

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