Fear Factor: Why We Need to Stop Using Fear to Motivate Us

I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” — Greta Thunberg, sixteen-year-old climate change activist[1]

Fear has long been a source of motivation for human beings. It comes instinctually to us, having helped ensure our early survival. Fear informed our actions, as the consequences of failing to protect ourselves were dire. Post civilization, institutionalized fear has been used many leaders, governments and religions to keep us enslaved to the idea that if we follow a set of rules, our safety (here and in the after-life) will be guaranteed.

The more conscious we become, the more we can see how fear has been used to manipulate, enslave, suppress, control, and even destroy us. How our primal need for safety and survival has led to our own demise, like lambs to the slaughter. Even if it doesn’t kill us, fear kills our spirit, numbs us to our purpose, and forces us to surrender our power.

One of worst things about fear is just how pervasive it is. A simple expression of fear can cause enough anxiety to drive another generation to spread it.

Fear and the anxiety it causes aren’t a source of inspiration, and it saddens — no angers — me to think that it’s being projected out into the world behind a well-meaning agenda (and I don’t just mean the environment).

Fear is insidious. It’s the snake in the grass that enters classrooms and homes and creates divides within families, schools, communities and nations.

As I explained in my piece, “Weeding Out the Root of All Fears”, the core of our fears is the belief that I AM NOT ENOUGH. This belief is being transmitted to us every day. It taps into our insecurities, which reach further into that instinct that tells us to shut down or conform in order to survive.

But we’re really not wired for this anymore. The more conscious we become, the more it doesn’t feel right to shut down, to give ourselves over to something that doesn’t jive with our truth. Yet our truth is constantly being challenged, clouded by the confusion that the multitude of voices outside of us create in order to keep us distracted and in-line with their power-seeking agendas.

This is by far the most disconcerting aspect of fear: our anxiety and fears are pushed outward, only making them bigger. They wind up stirring us into a frenzy because we really can’t conceive of the actual threat, but our primal instincts are triggered, telling us that the threat is there and ever present but that we are somehow powerless to stop it because we don’t know where it is. But the media continues to tell us it’s there, keeping us in this endless loop of fear and worry.

The reality is that while there are many serious issues in our world, fearing them won’t bring about a desired outcome. Even if we were to respond to fear with action, the energy behind the motivation isn’t love, which ultimately means it won’t last. It’ll be like the many transitory solutions of the past, never truly resolving or bringing closure to the issue but merely creating other problems in its stead.

Love cannot reside where fear exists. And without love, holistic change (as in whole and complete change) will not happen.

We need to model love and tolerance for our younger generations, not fear and vitriol. We need to show young people that we give a shit about their feelings, not their fears. We need to not act like assholes to other people, even if we don’t agree with their religious, political or social beliefs. We need to first accept that we are no more correct or virtuous than the person next to us, and we do not always know better than them. We need to recognize that so often those with agendas are merely responding to their own internal fears or insecurities that they are then projecting out onto others. We need to tell our children our fears are not theirs. We need to remind our children that they are powerful enough beings to create a better world than the one they’ve been born into without resorting to fear.

We need more examples of loving acts, not anxiety-riddled youth who’ve been taught to fear for their future because those generations before them forgot the one simple rule: Love Your Fucking Self First.

I hate to disappoint Greta Thunberg and those who follow and admire her, but the change they seek won’t come about until self-love and respect for others takes hold.

Issues such as violence and bullying which are emblematic of our own personal pain and suffering must be healed before issues around personal freedoms, the environment and climate change can be reasonably addressed.

Because how we treat ourselves and others underpins how we treat our world. And the efforts to use fear to accomplish any of this will only delay us.

[1]World Economic Forum, January 25, 2019, reprinted in “50 World’s Greatest Leaders,” Fortune, May 2019.