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The Mutating Face of Fear

By Ed Green LSCW

This is an observation I’d like to share with you. When my book, Escape from Insanity Illusions and Lies was published December of 2019 it was a different time. At the time my purpose for writing the book was to share my perspective as a psychotherapist of how the emotional distress we experience is rooted in fear and how that distress can block us from achieving the quality of life we want to live. This has become even more apparent with the people who find their way to me since the coronavirus.

Striking is that most don’t recognize the fear that underlies the issues their experiencing and the cause of their emotional distress, whether it be depression, anxiety, or some other threat to their mental wellbeing. Fear goes unrecognized because it disguises itself as anger and guilt, and their various derivatives that turns into a trap, a prison for which they see no escape. When these three are exposed for what they are the prison is revealed. When they begin to learn that it’s not external circumstances, but their own emotional reactions to it that’s the source of their emotional discomfort they begin to recognize the choices they made that got them where they are. And now, they can choose again. They also learn how their fear has mutated into unproductive and sometimes self-destructive ways that interfered in their life at best, and destructive at worse, and can now make a better choice.

When looking at this from the standpoint of psychotherapy, as it applies to relationship experiences, it becomes a microcosm of what’s being played out throughout our country since the virus hit. It provides a perspective of our collective experience in how we’re handling fear.

The coronavirus poses the most significant threat to the health and safety of humanity that we’ve seen in modern times for most all of us. Most of us have never seen anything like this. We’re under attack from an unseen enemy. We have no idea where it will strike next or who it’s next victims will be. There’s no defense and we can’t strike back at a faceless formless enemy that's taking a terrible toll on all of us. Collectively we feel isolated, helpless and afraid knowing this is out of our control. Our hope is for an effective vaccine. Until then, the toll on our sanity continues to mount.

Over this past year I believe we’ve been witnessing the many mutations of fear that has intensified since the realization of the threat we face with the coronavirus. Not having the usual outlets available to us prior to the virus, and feeling helpless, our fear has mutated and aimed at what we believe is within in our control. Those seen as responsible for not preventing the loss of jobs, homes and businesses become targets for the outward projection of the fear we feel inside. Now, fear has a face.

Another mutation of fear can be seen in the racial tensions that have been boiling below the surface for the last few hundred years. This provides another target for our fear. Racial injustice. Attention is brought to racial injustice previously hidden from those who would ignore it. Those who would ignore it have become the face that is the target for fear projected outward that has mutated into rage and conflict. Now, fear has a face.

Fear has infiltrated our political system and has mutated into blame, accusations, finger pointing, divisiveness and mistrust. The targets become those we feel are responsible and played out in an election the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Now, fear has a face.

The result, a splintered and divided country, in which the Right becomes a target of the Left and the Left has become a target of the right. The anger and resentments are the mutations of fear that blinds us to an awareness that the right and the left are two wings on the same bird. Now, fear has a face

We’ve lost our focus to what is really important. Once the mutations of fear are recognized for what it is and its many forms and faces, we can then put it in the proper perspective and see each other for who we really are. We must realize we must work as one rather than splintered factions working against ourselves. When this happens, the many faces of fear dissolve when the importance of our relationships overcomes fear as we combine our efforts. This is where it begins, whether on the smallest scale with individuals, couples, families, or on a larger scale with large groups, communities, cities or a nation, it comes down to one thing. It is our relationship with one another. Whether it’s a relationship between 2 people or millions of people. It’s relationships that hold the key to healing the divide that hurts us as individuals and as a nation. The choice to continue to hurt or to heal is in our hands.

Let us all choose wisely.

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