Escape from fear.

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Escape from fear (fear of fear) Luis Pisoni

"Consolation": acrylic on canvas; detail showing a kid trying to escape from fear. Aurora Mazzoldi
“Consolation”: acrylic on canvas; detail showing a kid trying to escape from fear. Aurora Mazzoldi

Escape from fear offers an illusory solution to a real problem.

Long before March 2020, COVID-19 was already in China.

Chinese are over 1 billion people + immigrants and travelers. Many of them had contacts with inhabitants outside of China. (6 billion people). And some of these other people (6 billion) had contacts with Chinese people, immigrants and travelers returning from China. For long experts warned of a pandemic.

How many countries in the world have prepared themselves? People had to face heavy restrictions on their freedom. Could they prepare before? And in case of a second wave, how many of us will prepare themselves? None or almost none, according to the book “The Power of Targeted Choices”. Why?

The book tells a different but similar story. It was not a question of COVID-19, but of an invasion by the Saracens. Other environment and situation, but behaviors remain the same as today.

“The Power of Targeted Choices” tells:

“… Many years ago, the inhabitants of one of the many villages overlooking the Mediterranean Sea lived in constant fear of the Saracen raids. There had already been many of them, and people were tired and weary, as they sought escape and shelter in the surrounding hills – from where they would witness, terrified and helpless, the plundering of their homes.

However, for a long time, then, the situation seemed calm. Hope and illusion were spreading in the village that the raids were over. So, instead of preparing defenses, or an emergency plan for future raids, the villagers chose the more comfortable option of not thinking about any future danger, continually telling themselves that it was over. They relaxed, without further worry of the pirates’ plundering.

Then one day, at dawn, the inhabitants heard the bells ringing again. They ran out of their houses and looked toward the sea. But the situation seemed calm; there was not a single ship to be seen. 

Escape from fear

They did not investigate further, preferring not to add to the momentary fear they had felt, and which had already so far led them to exasperation. Instead, they resorted to a simpler and, above all, more reassuring solution:

“What is that idiot bell-ringer playing at? Is he playing some sick joke? He needs to be taught a lesson, so the rest of us can get some sleep; he’s clearly bored, with nothing else to do all day, other than ringing that bell!”

The more aggressive of the villagers then ran to the church, to give the bell-ringer the beating he “had coming”; he was to be punished for shattering the illusion of safety.

But…

They were instantly forced to flee! The pirates had arrived, and the villagers were now running, as the plunderers gave chase. The pirates had landed their boats in a hidden cove and had climbed in amongst the shrubs without being spotted; only the bell-ringer had been able to see them, because he was sleeping out in the open, at the top of the bell tower. Having suddenly woken with a strange premonition, he had glanced down and immediately verified his suspicions.”

A constant state of fear

“Fed up of living with the constant state of fear, the villagers had allowed themselves to be persuaded by their anger at the bell-ringer; it was easier to accept and to vent, suffocating the fear which might well have alerted and saved them. Blinded by anger over their impotence to take action against the Saracens, they had overlooked the danger. Perhaps they were simply tired of constantly taking it into account? 

If fear can flow and is managed, it can warn us of danger. If, however, we entrust it to our mental part – to be fought against and suffocated – we will be removing ourselves from the reality. Inhibited fear becomes destructive and self-destructive, and will turn into an inner mine, ready to explode the moment we strike it…..”

(“The Power of Targeted Choices – 11 Simple Steps to Better Living”. Luis Pisoni and Aurora Mazzoldi, pages. 105-106)

COVID: Fear of fear  – Antonella Giannini

Referring to the previous text, I will try to identify some threads of the emotional plot that envelopes and even imprisons us.

In COVID times, we escape from fear. FEAR is a powerful emotion that makes us experience unpleasant feelings and perceptions: a state of constant tension; a continuous restlessness; an incessant overthinking that increases our uncertainty until becoming anxious; an emotional amplification and acceleration; a pressure on chest and stomach holding them in a vice, gripping our breath, and speeding up heartbeat. Who likes to live this?

No one! Yet emotions are very important warnings that should encourage us to keep sight of what is happening in reality. In the excerpt from the book, the bell-ringer had carried out this important function, though, as we already saw, people ignored it, with dramatic consequences.

Self-destructive thoughts

Why do we worry instead of caring (looking for a solution)? Why do we overlook the danger (escape from fear) or stop considering it?

Brooding over problems does not help us solve them; it works as a mechanism which repeats itself, regardless of reality. It’s an auto-feeding loop: it grows bigger as we feed it with our attention (that is, when we give too much importance to some thoughts). I often hear many people say: “it is stronger than I”, “I just can’t stop those thoughts”. They feel weak and helpless.

In fact, simplifying to the utmost, they feel bad when they focus their attention on a spiral of self-destructive thoughts.

Welcome emotions

How can we prevent this? Introspective researchers try to let go overthinking and switch to intuitive listening. The latter is not mechanical or repetitive, but varies from moment to moment to better adhere to the variations of reality; it bases on it and not on its interpretation.

We should succeed, even for a little while, to free ourselves from the dramatized interpretations of the external reality that the mind transmits to us (interpreting them according to its own schemes), and turn inward. We could observe the underlying emotional turbulence and welcome emotions without censoring or inhibiting them. Then, slowly, very slowly, we can listen.

Intuitive listening, instead of overthinking

Intuitive listening shows how to manage daily life. If instead, we continue overthinking, then we surrender to the mechanisms of mind that, disconnected from reality, make us feel weak, tired, demotivated, disoriented, defeated.

Connecting to foregoing text, we should not escape from fear and listen instead to the bell-ringer. We should accept his warning, instead of attacking him with anger. We will accept fear, let it flow without inhibiting it and, after remaining vigilant, look for solutions.

They will then emerge from intuition, the only reliable guide to follow in hard times like the ones we are living now.