The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Fear and Anxiety

Author Gordon Livingston discusses the psychological breakdown of fear and how it affects the lives of everyone.

BY: Gordon Livingston

How to Face Your Fears
 
 Fear is the central issue of our time. Once an adaptive emotion that protected our ancestors on the plains of Africa, fear has become a corrosive influence in modern life, eroding our ability to think clearly. Exploited for power by our political leadership and for money by the media, fear is embedded in the way we think about our lives.

Our preoccupation with “safety” is a natural reaction to our vulnerability to loss. At the same time, the search for perfect safety is absurd given the inevitability of our eventual demise.

Even as our lives have become safer overall, our fears remain intact and lie at the foundation of our most revered institutions, notably religion, which typically promises some version of immortality as a salve for our dread of extinction.

Americans live in an increasingly authoritarian society out of persistent fear that other tribes in distant places are a threat to our way of life, to our very existence. Over the last century, this apprehension has brought us to a continual state of war, which shows no sign of abating. And, although we congratulate ourselves for being a peace-loving people, our national anthem is a tribute to fighting off threatening foreigners. (Because I am, by accident of birth, an American, the reader will find that most societal references in this book derive from this place and time. However, I have tried to choose themes with universal meaning and application.)

Continued on page 2: I spend my professional life in the presence of fearful people... »

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