Monday, 8 September 2014

5. Fear and power: owners of our fears, writers of our history

Fear is one of the most powerful forces within us. It is wired to our physical response to a situation, overriding and disregarding any rational thinking. It is -of course- a good defense mechanism and being able to bypass our rational mind makes it extremely effective. You know, if a car is on the way to run over you, it's not time for a deep analysis, it's time to get out of the way.
This capacity of shutting down "superior thinking" is a treat that makes fear one of the 'entry' points to our minds and therefore one of the most targeted by anyone with manipulative intentions: politicians, corporations, religious orders, marketeers, our parents, our peers, etc. See this link

Beyond this external forces that can use fear for goals as "good" as making children go to bed at a reasonable time, as machiavellian as "mass manipulation" and up to quite superfluous of making us buy a particular brand of shampoo, we are ultimately the owners of our fears and we need to understand them better to be able to transcend them no matter what manipulative forces intend to do.

Through evolution our brain has added layers, making us more sophisticated entities with more survival resources. These added layers are built on top of the most primitive ones.
Some speak about the 'reptilian brain', the 'monkey brain' and the 'human brain' as the three main layers. 

The reptilian brain is the place where instinct (and therefore the primary response to fear) lays. It's described as rigid -it has to be-. In a moment of threat the most effective response is the quickest.

Most of our first fears -the ones we experience as truly vulnerable individuals- will be linked to our survival and therefore all the mechanisms we develop to overcome them will become survival mechanisms. Unconscious and mechanic. Quite rigid too. With active responses (such as Fight or flight) or passive responses (eg. seek safety in numbers or become submissive).

Protected against fear

In this simple set up, there have always been two weapons against fear: protection linked to the/a mother figure in our infant selves and the concept of faith and trust (to a certain extent positive thinking) in adults after we have effectively separated from the unconscious world we share with our mothers and experience our own power.

The mother figure is the one that can cast a sense of security in our early years, and the more secure we feel in this period of our lives, the least unconscious mechanisms we will need to survive. In most cases, however, even the best of mothers cannot really provide with this in full, partly because it might not be possible and partly because she also carries a baggage of fears that can play against becoming an effective mother.

Whilst we are still united with our mothers we are embedded in her psyche and we see the world the way she perceives it. This happens mostly by adopting her discourse (and her labels) as a true depiction of reality. Our choices are not so much an expression of our identity but hers. The more active is our fear, the more we will adopt and get attached to other mother figures that offer a discourse and an off-shelf identity. We "think" alike the company that employs us (which through a salary put food in our plates), we choose what a brand tells us is good (ensuring that we'll be recognised as good people with the label the brand put onto us), we buy into the news and a vision of the world that is scripted with a particular point of view, we repeat the words of history books that tell us the official history of the world according to our nation (or the winners), we align ourselves with the point of view of a group that we have joined, we condemn people our religion says are sinful. But this is a deluded discourse: it believes itself to be objective when it is subjective; it considers itself complete when it disregards some memories, hides our shame and only document the experiences that support the conviction "I am right"it is incomplete, it has lies, secrets and misconceptions, it is the version of reality our mothers (or our nation, our culture or whatever authority) were able to process.

Powered against fear

True power develops through the separation from our mothers (and all the mother figures we adopted in the way). Our becoming only happens if we felt secured in the first place or when we are ready to face this separation consciously: when we are ready to write our own script. 
"Soup, right? From the ideological barrier to that side, please"
Mafalda by Quino
Mafalda is a cartoon character created by Quino in the 60's in Argentina. Mafalda is a 6 year old with a very critical view of the world. One of the things Mafalda hates the most is the soup her mother insists she should eat. Here, the soup represents the maternal narrative. Without recognising this narrative as "foreign", we live in infancy, de-individuated, absent of the here and now, at the mercy of fear and the (m)other narrative and making choices that are not entirely ours and, most importantly, not taking responsibility for them. 

In the words of Carl Jung
Insofar as society is itself composed of de-individuated human beings, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individualists. Let it band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes – it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator. A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.

Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally shortsighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations, though one would think that the world had seen more than enough of what a well disciplined mob can do in the hands of a single madman… People go on blithely organizing and believing in the sovereign remedy of mass action, without the least consciousness of the fact that the most powerful organizations in the world can be maintained only by the greatest ruthlessness of their leaders and the cheapest of slogans.
We test our power during the patriarchy. The patriarchy is a stage that demonises the mother, invisibilise her and try to restructure her narrative by re-defying words. The patriarchy is castrating and we need to reclaim our history from the patriarchal narrative too. This is the true empowerment. Once we've done that, the spade turns to a pen and we become creators, writers, authors of our history. 


PS 1: None of these dictators did what they did on their own:
(note: the list might not be comprehensive and some of the numbers seem to account for a wider range of the conflict they were involved in but nonetheless...).

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