“When we’re afraid, a manipulator can talk us out of the truth we see right in front of us. Words become more real than reality”
         – Adelyn Birch, Psychopaths & Love

Fear Sells

Humans love drama. Suspense keeps us engaged in TV programs. Nail-biting chapter endings are why we stay up all night reading books. Big scary headlines sell more newspapers. Missing kids pictures on cartons sold more milk.

Using fear for entertainment is exciting and fun. I doubt anyone would complain about that. Using fear for profit is different and it might violate some of our personal ethics, but let’s face it, it’s been around forever.

Letting fear control us… now that is the defining moment… that’s the moment we can officially say that we’re addicted to fear.

Last night, I called my sister to laugh about some YouTube video that I’d just watched. She said jokingly “Um, you’re interrupting, don’t you know Hannity is on?” She was joking, partly. See, she has been enthralled with the unfolding events discussed on the Hannity show, things related to FISA warrants, corruption, and “the memo”. She is on the edge of her seat every evening, waiting anxiously for a resolution.

Switch characters and I bet things wouldn’t be much different. I could’ve called a more liberal-leaning friend and had a similar experience. She might’ve been watching Rachel Maddow investigate the Russia/Trump ties on MSNBC. She’d be seething with anticipation for the release of the second memo that was approved yesterday or outraged that Trump is so easily distracting attention away from the “real” corruption.

Both girls are waiting for the final chapter, the one where good overcomes evil and all is right in the world. The networks know this, the producers know this, and my sister knows this, yet she still has the sanity to watch Hannity.

When I had a newborn, my dad’s Morman friend came to town, he had 9 kids, and so a lot of parenting experience. His advice for this new mom was to “make sure they’re a little scared of you”.

His comment scared me, but quickly I thought he was probably right and kept that little parenting gem in my back pocket. As my kids grew up, I’d get angry and they’d get scared. I didn’t purposely scare them, but I can say that they sure do comply quicker and with less complaining whenever I’m in a bad mood or if they think I’ll get angry.

They don’t like being scared, and I don’t like seeing them scared – but the temptation and opportunity is still there – armed and ready to use for my advantage at any moment.

This isn’t a new idea. In Biblical times, Rome used public floggings to ignite fear and keep the peace. ISIS uses it in a similar fashion today. Politicians use fear to get elected – “Hey, how are ya, if you don’t elect me you and your kids will be murdered, starving, homeless or stupid, now let me kiss your baby”.

Companies play on our fears of being an outsider or not being accepted… “If you don’t drive a Ford, well, you’re a loser!”That scares me, because I don’t want to be a loser. That’s fear.

Religions use fear. You don’t believe, or perform, or behave this way – you’re going to hell or you’re going to be punished and suffer. That’s fear.

Don’t get me wrong, fear has its place. It’s a biological instinct that has helped us survive, reproduce and thrive. That giant wild-eyed man running towards you with a knife aimed at your throat, that guy should scare you!

Fear gets you pumped and primed to take action. That healthy fear saves lives, inspires innovation and provides the necessary motivation for change.

So when does fear become a problem or addiction?

I’d say for a lot of us, the “when” is now.

Look at us! We are all like strung-out junkies, we can’t get enough of it – we need more fear. We are the dealers and the users of this choice drug. We get a buzz when we are scared and a buzz when we scare others. Look at our social media feeds, our news networks, our governments, our religions. What are you sharing online? What do you read or watch or stay engaged in?

I know that I don’t click on articles about a police officer who’s celebrating his 50th year anniversary with the force. BORING.

Nope, I can barely stay mentally engaged with anything these days. I need drama. Fear creates drama. “Hello, I’m Lindsey Lieb and I am addicted to fear.” But my future doesn’t look that bright either. How do I escape this fear-mongering machine? Soon I’ll be like the other fear burnouts. So numb that I don’t experience fear or even care anymore. How does that affect my Empathy level?

The sad news is, whether I’m a fear junkie or a burnout, I’ll have about the same impact on the long-term success of the world. None. But living with high after high that the constant fear injections are supplying, well, it’s wearing me down. My health stinks, my relationships suck, my focus is gonzo.

So what will I do with my fear addiction? I don’t know. I guess it’s time I give up my favorite past time. It might be time for me to embrace that pearl of wisdom that’s repeated so often:

“The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President

What if there really is freedom past the fear? Could life really begin after I let go of fear? It’s worth a try. I’ll keep you posted.

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  • LINDSEY LIEB

    CEO and Founder of Happego

    : lindsey@happego.app

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