For several months, I have now enjoyed travelling through Germany and presenting my book “Anxiety – About the Usefulness of a Feared Emotion” to the public. My experience during these travels not only confirms what I postulate in the book, but should definitely be written down both on paper and on the comment pages of an internet blog.
IAfter one of my presentations on “Fear of the Dead” as we humans cultivate it, a young lady sought me out and told me she had found my words very inspiring. Consequently, she had the desire to tell me that she, personally, was not afraid of the dead. In fact, she even made a habit of walking through cemeteries at night all by herself.
I warmly recommended that she read my book, because in the process she would find out a lot about herself.
After all, I said, I found it strange that she took extra pains to tell me she was not afraid of the dead, and to prove it she gave an example of her fear of the dead. Why else would she emphasize that she even walks through cemeteries at night, if not because she considers it as some sort of test of courage? And what would be the motivation behind a test of courage unless fear defined it?
That is the thing about fear. It remains in the background, controls our behaviour, and in the end we do not even recognize what a mess it made of things.
It is also strange how recently SPD party leader Franz Müntefering, after having survived without harm a dangerous emergency landing in Stuttgart, was going to continue without further ado on his election campaign if journalists had not asked him about the accident. The almost-crash and Münte’s descent via escape slide overshadowed all other election topics. He gladly told everybody about the emergency instructions given by the flight crew, and whatever else he had to say was not important.
“Only bad news is good news”, is a true proverb among journalists. News that answer to the need for fear steal the show from all reports on true danger. Perhaps the tax course of the federal government is more dangerous than the emergency landing of the Münte flight. And there are no alternatives on the horizon.
Plane crashes are the favourite topic of fearful people. When giving a presentation on anxiety, I regularly ask the audience if any of them ever was in a plane crash. Nobody ever said they were. If I then ask who of the audience is afraid of a plane crash, most of the fingers go up. For me, this is especially interesting, because I know two men who already were in a plane crash. One of them has a serious physical handicap ever since the incident. But neither of them is afraid of a plane crash. In fact, the one mentioned before even flew with me over Germany in a one-motor Piper a few years ago. We enjoyed it immensely.
Yet, everything is remarkable, because the answers I receive prove that the degree of fear we have does not correlate with the actual potential danger of a situation. We humans are scared because fear is inherent in us, not because a situation is particularly dangerous. That is something that should give us pause, especially when we allow ourselves to be driven from one fear into the next:
Swine infection, climate collapse, adolescents killing someone in the Munich railway, and thousands of other fashions. The important thing to realize would be that people who actually have to cope with danger do not need fear on a daily basis.
(Translated by EG)