fear (70)

The following link, will guide you to my recent Dr. A. V., Varughese Memorial Lecture (2020) in Kerala, India

To listen to my lecture you best start the video at the 21:20 mark 

My talk is about ecocriticism as a newly emerging field in the last few decades, that involves literary criticism and ecology. I focus on a particular way I interpret this field and how it can better be holistic in integrating the work on fear and fearlessness. The last 1/2 of the video is made up of questions from the audience and me answering them. 

-enjoy, 

M. 

 

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Join Steve Nation and I in a dialogue on FearTalk #11, part of a series of unique conversations about fear and a lot of other things. Steve is a life-long student of theosophy, and he collaborates in such a way to synergize with me during this spontanteous chat on Zoom. I think you may find it interesting, we cover a lot of topics, and lots of discussion about the United Nations, and other things...

Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8Id7lI6rM0

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"Fearology" Get's a Positive Mention

I'm pleased to see that an article came out recently, with a mention of "Fearology" and my work on this, in relation to the life of Marcus Garvey and Intergenerational Trauma" (by Philip Geoffrey). I've taken the relevant excerpt here:

intergenerational trauma is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in which first victims passed their trauma to their children through a series of problematic behaviors[1]. As Bezo notes, “Each generation seemed to kind of learn from the previous one, with survivors telling children, ‘Don’t trust others, don’t trust the world.[2]” These behaviors, rooted in fear of a reoccurrence of the initial trauma, if left unchecked, are often revealed in symptoms such as learned helplessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, self-harm, and depression.

Fearology and the RIA Method

One of the most exciting developments in psychology has been in Fearology, a “transdisciplinary study of the interrelationship between fear and the human experience.[3]” The conceptual framework developed by R. Michael Fisher has been advanced by Dr. Mary Poffenroth, who, in a recent interview, outlined methods she has used to “teach people about how to create strategies around fear”: “The first step is just recognizing what's going on. And then the second step would be identifying it, kind of like ‘name it to claim it. And then the A is going to be to address. What kind of strategies do you need to manage outcomes for this?[4]

Now, fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Some have called fear a gift because it is survival-based[5]. However, the instinctive caution in a dangerous situation can become a liability when the threat is no longer present.

Marcus Garvey, who was never a fearful man, witnessed firsthand the effects of fear on his family and the debilitating effects that it had on them and worked hard to remove fear-based behaviors from his life. As he stated in Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, “FEAR is a state of nervousness fit for children and not men.[6]

[article is available at http://marcusandtheamazons.blogspot.com]

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[Note: I am glad fearology and my definition are given their due, but it is inaccurate to assume this is a "development in psychology" as my very definition of fearology is "transdisciplinary"--also, my conceptual framework has not "been advanced by Dr. Mary Poffenroth" actually, as she is using "fearology" but virtually totally within a biomedical and psychological conceptual and traditional disciplinary lens; as well, I do not support Garvey's definition of fear, for several reasons]

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I just received a message from Pooja Soni, a young author on consciousness, who has spent many years writing a very intense philosophical treatise (new theory) examining consciousness, development and yes, looks also at fear where necessary, in order to articulate the 'shaping' effect of fear experiences. Book is available: Pooja wrote to me: 
 
"Here is a recent interview of mine describing my book -  [and here is a recent FearTalk #10 Soni & Fisher in conversation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqif3--8L5c ]
 
The basic idea regarding emotions such as fear that I advocate in my book is that negative experiences or emotions are crucial for learning and development of an individual. 
Treating negative experiences in pessimistic terms exposes our obsessions regarding the idea of a perfect world, a world where you can control everything. 
Our fears and negative experiences define who we are as persons."
 
[Note: Pooja joined the FM ning years ago, and has a few posts which you can find if you do a Search in the upper right box on the FM ning home page] 
[see also a discussion Pooja and I had on their "Panexperientialist view of fear" on the FM ning a few years ago]
 
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There's a long story behind my finding this 4 pp. fold-out brochure in a medical library in New York City. It is the only evidence currently available on this group [1] that was apparently started under the guidance of the famous theosophists, Alice & Foster Bailey. Since 2006, when I found this brochure (which I made in color, aged, and adapted with a few excerpts here only using photoshop), I have been searching for answers to the mystery of where this group and The League 'disappeared' and why no traces. Currently, the fine folks at Lucis Trust, NY, are attempting to search into this. Curiously, no body in the current big American theosophical organizations has heard of this League but they do suspect the Bailey's were quite likely to have taken on initiating such a project. IF anyone has any leads to finding out more about this group, let me know: 

r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

But besides that fascinating historical evidence, and a story yet told, I wanted to share the brochure today, it seems appropriate as just 5 days away from one of the most important elections ever in U.S. history. The level of tension, fear, dread, etc. is palpable. It's also in my dreams. And, so, I thought it would be good to share these words, ideas, and spirit of fearlessness from this group in 1931, of which North America was deep in the Depression and fear was rampant. If you haven't already picked-up the nuanced connection between The League's mission and my own via the In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989- ) and later, founding the In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute (1991- )--and, the uncanny sense of a paralleling historical soul-based work that is wanting to go on in this world, it is so obvious to me--and yet, struggles of resistances to manifest this Project effectively are so powerful as well. To say it bluntly, there is no such project that has such a systematic well-thought out "program" to improve fear management and remove fear on the planet as a barrier to the evolution of consciousness. This is powerful beyond words. I wished, in retrospect, I would have found this brochure in 1989--boy, that would have made a big difference! But, that's the way it is. 

End Note

1. Just recently, I have attained a few documents on this group, I am reviewing, and will keep you posted with updates, if you let me know you are interested. 

 

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New Book Released: "Exotic Fearology"

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EXOTIC FEAROLOGY is a book which emerged with ample examples of fear study on the countenances of the people especially on the various airports during the beginning of the coronavirus spread from China to western world and different narratives as coronavirus, airports, seas and the author as in the meditative trance with the poetic voice of reality of eco-turbulence globally. The examples of traumatic sights of the visitors of the planes have been reflected in the co-writing with Dr. R. Michael Fisher and the author himself on the principle of what Fearology is and its implication to day to day life as experienced being in traumatic form. It has, of course, provided a new taste and knowledge for the readers so far.  -BSA

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Author of "Exotic Fearology" Bhawani Shankar Adhikari (Ph.D. candidate)

 

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"Fear is a disease": What Do You Think?

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Howard Thurman, author, Africanist, 'Black Power' theologian, mystic, activist during the Civil Rights Movement, was one who studied both W. religions and also visited the far East to study their religions, including the philosophy and social activism of Mahatma Gandhi. Thurman was the spiritual guide for most of the 'big' nonviolent Civil Rights leaders in the USA (including Martin Luther King Jr.). I was fascinated to learn in a recent talk on the internet that Thurman used the phrase "Fear is a disease" and closely linked to "hate"--and, it is one of the great enemies of the human potential and justice, love and compassion. 

So, I'm curious if you all would take a stab at sharing your own reflections here on this phrase by Thurman... (use the Comment fearture). 

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The spectre of 'The Communist Manifesto'

 
 8012580857?profile=RESIZE_180x180 -Desh Subba
 
Fear of a spectre is the beginning of whole communism. 1st sentence, in 'The Communist Manifesto' Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have written, "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism (p.3)."
As a philosopher always comes
'Y' did they use the spectre word as a symbol? What is the genesis of the spectre ? They never and nowhere have given answer of genesis of the spectre.
Answer of question is fear and genesis of the spectre is given in genesis of meaning article.
What and whose fear was there in industrial revolution time?
There was fear of exploitation, oppression, torture and domination of bourgeois to proletariat. (It was hypothetical concept of authors)
 
To exorcise from the spectre, they encouraged to make many spectres (association, organization, union, London assembled) among them "Workingmen of all countries, unite! (p.30)" is the universal spectre.
 
Why did they begin manifesto from the spectre symbol. Why did not use other symbols? It is a reason, fear was with them because the spectre is the best synonym of the fear. It is always happening to the life of philosophy and philosopher. They first pick up a word or sentece then elaborate as much as they can. So, it is the first step of whole communism.
 
But they (Marx n Engels) charged all Europe, "All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre (p.3) pope and tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radiclas and German police-spies." in contrast, they entered themselves in many alliances.
 
The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie (p.11)
 
"Wage labor rests exclusively on competition between the labors." (p.13)
 
"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle." ( p.3)
We can see above three struggles. There is no class struggle but struggle in same profession.
Competition and fighting are a synonym of struggle. The struggle is always happening in the same profession (professor have struggle with professor), rarely happens to other professions. It is the reason, I say, "the History of all hitherto existing society is the History of fear struggle."
 
Marxism says, "before men do anything else, they must first produce the means of their subsistence. Everything else follows from the necessity to produce material means of our subsistence."
 
So, I (Philosophy of Fearism) say/s, "Existence of fear precedes essence." History of materialism has begun from the material of subsistence. Why subsistence was primary, was because they had a fear of death.
 
Note; It can be more described. I am trying to write in coming book 2021. It is some noted point from The Communist Manifesto.
 
Ref.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto, 1848
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This image comes from the documentary movie "Childhood 2.0" free to watch on Youtube--highly recommend. Any use of new technologies that 'hook' people into addictive relationships with social media are a definite empirical 'danger' to their mental health (levels of fear/anxiety depression) linked to self-esteem--and, in worst cases, the research shows social media for these young people especially is a major cause of suicide (deaths) and/or suicidal ideation. The graph above is a pretty clear indicator of the more social media forms that come available, the more fear is created in your people (due to violence online, in many forms)--and, then the results are no longer just speculation. 

As a fearologist, this kind of data, plus my own intuition, my own experiences with children and teens, etc., shows me that such young people (and it starts early in ages 7 onward for the most part) are incredibly sensitive to the fear of social rejection (or simply rating schemas that the social media designs have built-in to allow one to compare everyone with everyone very quickly and quantitatively, especially by the use of "Likes" measures, which are insidious devices which ought to be banned). But we all know the "tool" is not the problem, it is how we use it.

Families especially today have a major challenge to figure out how to keep connected between the generation gaps, teachers as well, and eventually we'll have to all admit (my request) we 'are scaring ourselves to death' by these computer technologies (especially use of social media) that create a cocktail for emotional disaster for young people. Ernest Becker, the great cultural anthropologist pretty much found in his research that "fear of death" and "self-esteem maintainance" are the 2 greatest motivators and shapers of human behavior. The nuance here is, fear of social death (i.e., exclusion, drop in status, etc.) is the greatest fear because it hits on the death fear and social fear and those hit on the self-esteem fear (loss)--and, a downward cycle results. The paradox is that parents generally believe the cell-phone, for e.g., is such a great "safety" device to keep kids secure, and so on; but real data like in the movie Childhood 2.0 shows that the online environment is more dangerous to the health of a young person than the outside world by a longshot. Check it out. 

The whole addiction cycle involved here--the addiction to security (and use of such devices 'in-hand' all the time like a milk bottle)--is creating the most frightened and depressed young people this world has ever seen en mass, no matter what culture, class, gender, etc. It is a ubiquitous Fear Problem at its base--and, thus, fearology has a lot to contribute to the analysis and solutions. 

 

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Dr. Faranda's New Book on Fear as Potent

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I haven't read this new book but will take a peek at it in the next while and make comments. You may also want to do so. Use the FM ning "Comment" feature here to create a discussion. NOTE: See "Comment" below this blog for my latest thoughts on reading some chapters on Faranda's book.

I've enclosed below the book publisher's description, note that I put in larger font a most interesting thesis Faranada makes about fear and the future. The book looks on first glance like an important contribution to the emerging sub-field called Feariatry (a la Subba & Fisher): 

#1 New Release in Evolutionary Psychology and Buddhism ─ Fear, Contemporary Society, and its Consequences

For anyone suffering from the global pandemic anxiety surrounding the new coronavirus, comes a long awaited exploration of one of the most powerful and primitive human emotions.

A history and culture of fear. Over the last five hundred years, life for the average human being has changed dramatically―plagues no longer wipe out entire families, and no longer do we empty our chamber pots into the street. But, progress in the West has shown that no matter how many dangers we neutralize, new ones emerge. Why? Because our level of fear remains constant.

Fear in contemporary society. For years, Dr. Frank Faranda studied a state of fearfulness in his patients―an evolutionary state that relentlessly drove them toward avoidance, alienation, hypercriticism, hyper-control, and eventually, depression and anxiety. He began to wonder what they were afraid of, and how embedded these fears might be in contemporary society. This book aims to break us free from what he found.

Fear not. Faranda’s Fear Paradox is simple―even though fear has a prime directive to keep us safe and comfortable, it has grown into the single greatest threat to humanity and collective survival. As a consequence, fear is embedded in our culture, creating new dangers and inciting isolation. With global pandemic disruptions and rising anxiety levels, now is the time to shine a light on our deepest fears and examine the society that fear is creating.

But fear not―inside, you’ll learn about:

  • The fear of pain and the fear of the unknown
  • How fear has driven progress in the West
  • The price paid to eradicate fear
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The healing of trauma, and the creating of room for growth in the nervous system of our children and other human beings, does not only happen in therapists’ offices. Our everyday lives present us with endless opportunities to heal—through the things we say and do, the harmful things we are able to not say and do, and the ways in which we treat ourselves and others. We all have the capacity to heal—and to create room for thers to heal. Our relationships, communities, and circumstances all call us into this healing.

(from Resmaa Menakem, 2017, p. 305 in My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies)

 

Today, September 18, 2020, I received my absentee ballot to vote in the USA elections from my home in Canada. The United States has been politically, emotionally, and spiritually shaken the past 4 years. The truth of its darkest side unleashed for the world to see. And yet many in the USA still do not to see it. Including some of my devout Christian American relatives who support the current White House resident.

Last night I reread the letter I wrote in the early morning hours on the day after the 2016 election in my desire to not be caught in the deep fear that I could feel so viscerally in my body. I could not imagine going to my office and teaching that day as “normal” so I wrote to my community of students and faculty at the university where I was teaching and administrating. After I sent this letter many told me that they kept turning back to it in their state of shock and despair in the days and weeks that followed.

In less than 2 months we will face the next moment of truth and I find myself preparing.

Dear WGSS Students and Faculty 

I will be sharing the regular newsletter later today but felt the need to share these early morning thoughts in the aftermath of the election. I am a Canadian who chose to become an American 7 years ago after coming to teach at SIU. I have found it hard to understand American thinking and ways of being on so many levels. As a new American I have experienced the significance and responsibility of voting that I never felt as a Canadian. There are many gifts to be found in America. May the peoples of American now become leaders in the recovery and healing of deep systemic institutionalized oppressions that perpetuate hatred and fear. May Canada and all the world allies come forward to join in. The presence of WGSS in institutions of education is an essential part of that recovery. The work is undeniable and we have the knowledge and tools. We teach them in our classes, share them our research. I echo many of my WGSS colleague words on FB. It is time to get to work. 

Barbara

November 9, 2016.

Reality and Recovery

Accepting reality is the first step in recovery. Last night I chose to go to bed before the final election results were known. Awakening this morning at 5am my thought was “Trump has attained the Presidency of the United States of American. This is a reality.” Immediately I moved into thoughts of what I could share in my weekly newsletter to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies community in which I am the Director of at SIU. I realized what I do know is that a number of disenfranchised groups in America have risen and won over other disenfranchised groups in this current political system. The familiar win-lose binary that keeps racism, sexism, homophobia and every other oppression in place is alive and well. The backlash for the losers is excruciating, full of pain and horror. I feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared for what is to come. I wake my partner up in bed as I weep and shake and ask him for attention. Attention is what we can give each other as we do the conscious work needed to release the collective trauma that has surfaced so blatantly in this 2016 election. It is a trauma that invokes with its worst side the use of intimidation to silence us and keep us isolated and in fear. On its better side it asks us to keep moving from crying to singing. I know from my experience that it is crucial to not silence the voice even when words feel impossible and/or inadequate. While being held by my partner I shift from shaking to singing. As I sing, thoughts of how oppressed groups utilize singing in times of political, cultural and religious oppressions arise in my memory, both in mind and body.

I begin to ask myself questions:

How can I step out of this rampant political binary and step into what can be clearly seen as fearism now that all politically correct hiding strategies have been blown up? How can I model something else more unifying with diversity for those who are part of my professional and personal life? The WGSS conference that I am in the midst of planning with students and faculty is entitled “Allies Across Differences.” We have been preparing to address the binary of win vs. lose, us vs. them. We have an opportunity to offer a hospitable space on campus for the collective trauma that this political election has brought to the world’s attention. The fall-out from the election results calls for attention and healing. We have the opportunity to keep teaching truth to power in hospitable ways, and yet, not be cooperative with oppression.

I am grateful for my wise colleague Cade Bursell’s FB post in the hours prior to the final election results. Reminding us/me to continue the work; to not return the hate that we feel directed at us as women, people of color and diverse sexual and diverse gender identities. Instead let us stay connected, give attention to each other’s fear but do not succumb to projecting it back out as attacks. Stand up for each other. Gather allies, strategize and continue to use your voice and gifts to build allyships across differences. I grieve for and with the young especially as they have been born into this legacy of fear.

I begin this day with a simple commitment to remind people to sing [and create]. To keep walking the path with allies and those not yet allies with love and compassion. From chaos and destruction eventually comes new order. Keep teaching and speaking truth to power in your classes [and lives]. And remember that the formal political realm is one of at least three realms that make up our world. The others being equally important, the natural and the spiritual realms. Take time for recovery. Spend some time outside today and remember the unconditional life-giving forces that sustain us as humans on this planet. 

Please contact me if you would like to set up spaces for dialogue. WGSS will do what it can to support initiatives and gatherings for recovering and generating creative and critical ideas and initiatives for the future. 

 

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Black Lives Matter & Policing Reform(s)

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become a pivotal, and controversial, social movement. Triggered primarily by repeated incidents of black males being killed (murdered) on the streets of America by police officers (particularly white officers) has left a mark that is now indelible and performed in the Floyd Rebellion (street protests). It has not been pretty and disturbs and terrifies many. And, not all people of color agree with the way things have gone down on both sides--the authorities and the rebellion protestors. But lots of good things are also coming from the rubble, you might say.

So I give hats off to the BLM better aspects of liberation and its allies generally for the 'wake up' call; and especially my focus here in this blog is on the positive push of some BLM folks and other sensitive educators and therapists to help get to root causes of racism traumatization (and/or racialized trauma). I use these latter concepts, from a healing and fearlessness perspective or paradigm for social change and transformation. I am less a fan of the politically and ideologically driven 'playing the race card' and 'fanning the race wars' strategies on all sides of the battles today between opponents. Thus, with this distinction of my work and interest, I would argue that nowadays, it is really questionable if the term "racism" or "race" are actually of any value to healing, just like the term "racists" is to me only a way to continue the worst of racism traumatization [1]. The cycle of domination-fear-conflict-violence is hard to break, but I believe breaking the language and making ourselves more aware of emanacipatory and healing language is a good start to the 'rebellion' that all of us could participate in and not just BLM on the streets. 

In this regard, obviously my work is about moving from a culture of fear to a culture of fearlessness, and that ideally would be what BLM is attempting to do. I am not telling BLM what to do nor speaking as if I know all about them and their work. I certainly don't and I am willing to be informed by them as they see fit. I will listen, and I will open up opportunities for healing on their side and my side--and, all the other options of our juxtapositioning as human beings attempting to figure out how to live together well on this fragile planet. I am concerned that forces of tyranny take many forms, and no group is immune. So, to counter the fear-based tyranny movements of all kinds, on all sides of the conflicts in societies, let's take a look at the notion of racism traumatization as a learning and healing process. I have not delved a lot into this field but I have come across a book my life-partner is using for her own liberation via ancestral healing work and is planning to use in a local non-profit organization in the urban setting of the city we live in. The book is by Resmaa Menakem, a person of color and expert on conflict and violence and healing (individual and collective). The title is "My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies" (2017). It is radical on many fronts, but what it does not do is 'pit one race against another' nor attempt to show any superiority in any group that is innate or given by God, or any other power. Menakem writes with wisdom and compassion and a lot of street smarts about racialized violence and oppression--and, better yet, about racialized trauma work. I have included a couple pages from the book, particularly on Menakem's advice for reforming policing. I have also written a book with two colleagues on this topic but more general on the relationship of fearism to law and criminology [2]. Menakem's work is very pragmatic and I trust you'll find these couple pages useful for knowledge and as potential to take into action in your communities. 

 

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Notes

1. Another angle of understanding racism traumatization is through a critical analysis of "white supremacism" and an even more interesting angle is through critical analysis of tribalism-ethnocentricism and their worldviews (e.g., in Spiral Dynamics integral theory). No doubt, societies today and in the future will best be served by multiple angles on the problem of "Race" in America or anywhere in the world. For me, I always have looked with great focus on the problem of fearism-t (toxic form) as the core root of terrorism of all kinds and those are the isms that are articulating the other isms--that is, sexism, racism, classism, adultism, and so on. Oppression is fear-based in an ideology of fearism-t. All that said, my owning responsibility for my white caucasion historical situation and current privilege is well taken as something I have to always look at as part of white supremacism agendas--that is, oppression. 

2. Fisher, R. M., Subba, D., & Kumar, B. M. (2018). Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism. Xlibris.

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7927130280?profile=RESIZE_584xI think this is one of my best (sociopolitical and economic) applications of a design for how to re-form our societies, and I also bring in the concept of Fear (i.e., culture of fear) and Fearlessness into the UBI model which has radical implications to transform society not just tweak it (the latter, which is mostly what I see in the vision and thinking of those promoting UBI at the present time). Let's talk about this folks! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ-IhnblIRA

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‘Ending the Culture of Fear’: Fantasy or Possibility?

A Dialogue between Nonye & Michael

R. Michael Fisher & Nonye T. Aghanya

 [Note:  Michael (Canada) approached Nonye (USA) recently and conducted this email exchange over a few weeks focusing on their interests and questions about the phenomenon called “culture of fear”]

 Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of competitive scaremongering, where different groups vie with one another about what we should and should not fear. So while one group of professionals advises parents to shield their children from the sun in order to protect them from skin cancer, another group points to the risk of children suffering from vitamin D deficiency because they have been shield from the sun. Competitive scaremongering surrounds the debate on whether vaccinating children carries more risk than letting nature run its course. People routinely accuse one another of promoting fear, playing the fear card, or allowing themselves to be manipulated by appeals to fear....Barry Glassner [sociologist] claims that “we are living in the most fear-mongering time in history.’ Perhaps he is right.   -Frank Furedi [1]

RMF: I have recently been working on a paper tracking the history of the “culture of fear” concept across disciplines [2]. Although, this concept has been in my research, writing and teaching since 1997 or so, it remains a sturdy concept for critical analysis of our individual and collective lives. In 2004, I was contracted to do a baseline study of the uses and definitions of “culture of fear” across disciplines. I directed it for leaders, although that report was never published widely [3]. I observe, unfortunately, there is still a good deal of (mis-)interpretation going on amongst those that throw the term around today. So, that’s one issue I’d be curious to explore with you in this brief interview.

Oh, I’m curious Nonye if and when you had heard of the term “culture of fear” or “climate of fear”; and have you pursued researching more into those at all? Do you teach about these concepts as contexts within nursing education or in your online program per se, what is it called?

Nonye: Thanks Michael, this is truly an interesting topic and I’m excited to explore and gain some insights from a fearologist on “culture of fear,” especially as it pertains to healthcare. In the context of Nursing/Medical education and healthcare practices, many institutions for countless years have implemented and embraced various methodologies for more efficient general care delivery. An example is the use of Wong Baker pain scale for objective assessment and better pain management for patients.

However, in my review of various existing empirical studies, there seemed to be a lack of methodology to effectively address patients’ apprehensions due to anxieties and fears in healthcare settings. Such patients’ state of anxiety is quite comparable to the “climate of fear” brought on by the feeling of unknown amongst other factors. Some studies highlight various contributory factors, for e.g. decline of practitioners’ empathy and compassion in healthcare practices and further suggest educational interventions for enhancing empathy in healthcare practitioners as part of a solution to the problem of fear/anxiety management. I’m optimistic about introducing my findings on the use of soft skills of communication as a vital tool for curbing patients fears and anxieties and improving the chances of trust development with healthcare practitioners. Contents of my online courses and book can be used as educational resources in Nursing and medical institutions.

RMF: Okay. But before we get to the conception of what makes a culture of fear, and how to best ‘know’ what a culture of fear is and transform it, I’ll ask you to respond to the recent article in the British Medical Journal (2018) that caught my eye, with a provocative title: “End the Culture of Fear in Healthcare” (Ladher, 2018). This is a prestigious journal in this field. And as a 30 year experienced nurse-educator yourself, I’m sure you are aware of the phenomenon itself where fear, mistrust, intimidation is very real in organizational cultures in the health field. Could you comment on this excerpt from Ladher (2018): “A key finding of the independent report into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where around 600 people received fatal and medically unjustified does of opioids, was a hospital culture of uncritical deference to doctors and a fear of raising concerns.” Ladher goes on to note that the report mentioned calls for “ending professional hierarchies in clinical practice”—you wrote a book or two on this have you not? What’s your take on this kind of finding from such a report, and I am sure there are many other examples of such reports we could find all over in various nations and sectors of society?

Nonye: First, from a practical perspective, I believe there needs to be further clarification of the latter part of Ladher’s article excerpt particularly on the “fear of raising concerns” within the hospital organization and how it may have contributed to the unfortunate fatal opioid overdosing of some 600 hospital residents.

I have written two books [4] in recent years on the issues of overcoming fears and anxiety in regard to the clinician-patient relationship—focusing on communication effectiveness as it relates to treatment effectiveness. This UK report creates more questions than answers. Did many patients’ hesitations and fears of expressing their opinions to their doctors and/or administration of the hospital contribute to strained dialogue and mistrust that made it difficult for the doctors to ascertain their pain levels accurately?

Did the doctors unwelcoming attitudes make it difficult for patients to be vulnerable and transparent about their pain levels? Did the nurses participate in assessing patients pain scales and response to opioid management?

If and when patients attempted to suggest alternate pain management plans, other than opioids (e.g., heating pads, NSAIDS, non-narcotics analgesics), was there a perception that doctors were not accommodating of their suggestions? Did the patients disclose these concerns to nurses and did the nurses fail to inform the prescribing doctors? Did such communication breakdown create a sense of patient dependency and the disastrous impact of opioid over-medication?

RMF: You mention “communication breakdown.” You seem to frame everything in your analysis of your work on communication effectiveness? Is this something you were personally interested in, perhaps even before your training as a nurse? Where did that focus come from? It seems to be a lens you bring to determining what’s really important in reality.

Nonye: Effective communication is achieved via a “two way venture” and this became apparent to me very early in life, as early as 5 years old. I was always an anxious child and grew up into an anxious adult, very eager to please others around me. The realization that I could dramatically reduce my state of anxiety by aiding someone else, by any possible means, to become less anxious while they interacted with me was my eureka moment! Noted in one of my study analyses was a disclosure from Dr Stephen Trzeciak, the chief of medicine at the Cooper University Healthcare in Camden, N.J. In his 2018 TEDx talk which explored the existence of a healthcare compassion crisis, I was fascinated by his mentioning of a stark difference between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy is characterized by feelings while compassion is characterized by actions. Thus the practice of strategic and compassionate engagement became an actionable effective tool which needed to be shared with other healthcare professionals and nursing/medical institutions.

By recognizing human characteristics and behaviors, and adjusting engagement approach strategically, healthcare practitioners can help reduce patients anxieties while promoting the chances of trust development complementary with compassion development. 
 

RMF: Oh interesting about your core childhood strategy. I would call that a core base for a fear management system, based on the need for social acceptance and comfort, which then becomes a form of social conformity, which then functions “well” not only to lower your anxiety but it maybe adaptable in a career choice, maybe in a society as a whole, where the strategy gets rewarded via the culture’s need for cooperation, consensus, and being a good workers—or a good person, etc. All that conforming, I suppose is anxiety-reducing too; yet, it can also exacerbate anxiety further below the surface. I know you also are somewhat of a rebel too (smile). 

That’s very reasonable as a core fear management system, and is seen as part of the evolutionary history of our species; so, don’t get me wrong, in that I am not complaining about it, I’m more curious how it fits and works at one level; but my thinking is always critical and reflective too. I have mapped out at least 10 different fear management systems in human cultural evolution [5]—some which individuals may choose to stick with and sometimes they also change and evolve to meet newer challenging conditions when an individual or a culture is faced with bigger challenges that the old fear management system adaptations may start to fail to be serviceable. I guess, I’m always teaching people to examine both what fails and what works, when it comes to their fear management systems—and/or habits. Learn from both. There is always a possibility that even what “works” may have limitations and prevent growth and development. But that’s a larger topic, perhaps for another time. So, back to your professional work...

Nonye: I learned long ago to ask a lot of questions when I see a problem like that described by the article above. If healthcare providers failed to consider patients’ contributions towards the treatment plan, did this lead to a situation where patients just continued to overly ingest opioids because “doctor knows best”? Did doctors uptight and unfriendly demeanor make it difficult for patients to inquire about the frequent dosing of their opioids because they were afraid to upset the doctors by “asking too many questions”?

These are some of the factors that could have contributed to this tragic and unfortunate event and I don’t particularly believe that Ladher’s singular suggestion for “ending professional hierarchy in clinical practice” is sufficient to adequately address this issue and prevent recurrence.

RMF: I agree. If all an institution does, be it a medical and health one or not, is tweak the surfaces of the problems, and focus on the issue of “hierarchy” without focusing on the nature and role of fear, not much will change. I mean Ladher’s summary does note fear is a factor. That is not uncommon in issues when “culture of fear” is raised to a head as an organizational problem. The issue for me is that the thinking of “fear is a factor” is just too tame or euphemistic, and reductionistic. It tends to psychologize, even individualize, fear. It is easy to say “fear is a factor,” more or less—although, in some uptight fear-based organizations they won’t even allow that discussion to come to the surface. It is because “fear management” is a topic way off-the-radar. “Pain management” is on the radar, but not fear management. And, I’m generalizing but this is what seems to happen in health care generally. “Fear” is still like a taboo topic itself, often, and that’s what I see as a professional education and training deficit problem in many organizations. Have you noticed this? Have you thought about this, and what might be some solutions?

Nonye: I totally agree with your assessment of the lax use of fear as a factor that impacts many events in healthcare practices and other organizations. More often than not, there seems to be a reluctance of organizations to delve deeper and discover the root causes of fears that affect the organizational culture and employee performance. This is an important aspect of quality performance process as it can ultimately provide clues for implementing changes that will positively impact an organization’s performance, in healthcare and otherwise.

As part of a quality performance assessment process, this could involve the act of organizational and individual self-reflection. It could sometimes be conducted via a self-assessment questionnaire. This process of reflection may quite frankly be a bit awkward for some but it’s a necessary step for unraveling and successfully addressing the causes of many fears in various institutions and making positive and lasting changes from the result of the revelation of such assessment processes.

RMF: So what if “culture” or at least institutional culture is itself a phenomenon that is a defensive reaction against fear—as existentialists and social psychologists [6] say? What if the entire matrix of the system is so pathological and toxic, which is what “culture of fear” means?

Nonye: Culture of fear in healthcare is a complex one influenced by many factors such as patients’ behaviors, perceptions, healthcare providers’ personal ethics and consulting styles with patients and their abilities to identify patient characteristics and apply appropriate communication styles that lead to more sincere and productive engagements with patients.

These factors must critically be addressed to help reduce the risks of such unfortunate events as reported at Gosport War Memorial hospital. When you speak of culture itself as virtually a fear-based reaction—a defense—and thus seemingly toxic inherently, I don’t know what to say but that’s not a familiar notion to me. Can you say more?

RMF:  Sure, but let me first define what a culture of fear is generically, as a dynamics of a living system. And to quote Furedi, “The term culture of fear works as a rhetorical idiom rather than as a precise concept. Its meaning is often far from clear.” [7] I tend to agree with him, in part. At least, this is what I came up with as a first working definition (and, I did not find it in the dictionary or a sociology encyclopedia or in Frank Furedi’s or Barry Glassner’s books, as useful as those resources may be at one level). Rather, I came up with this after reading hundreds of documents across history and disciplines: culture of fear – is when a system tries to manage fear and ends up creating more fear. It’s a paradoxical fear management regime, you might say. That creates a dilemma because one has to really ask about ‘who’ or ‘what’ to trust in terms of furnishing us as citizens, workers, and leaders with good knowledge on fear management in the context of a culture of fear?

And, without going into further theorizing, the basic thing I discovered is that most people assess the culture of fear based on ‘scientific’ and measurable things, like fear factors, mistrust factors, intimidation factors in the organization, and of course self-assessed fear(s), and so on. The standard psychological fare of applying tools to understand what is going on. But there was in none of the literature (virtually none) any consciousness on the part of the theorists, the professionals, or those creating the assessment tools, that (arguably) 90% of fear (which motivates us; often as anxiety) is unconscious and one doesn’t know the root cause per se. Now, that is my existential, psychoanalytical and fearological lens being applied for that conclusion.

You can see that I go deeper than a rationale based on communications or cognitive behavioral psychological modes per se in the pursuit of understanding fear or what I also call ‘fear’ (culturally modified fear – analogous to culturally modified organisms). The world hasn’t yet caught up with the complex morphing and evolving of ‘fear’ in ‘culture’ (i.e., within culturalism as ideology; i.e., within a culture of fear context)—I mean culturalism as the process of dominating belief systems (and taboos)—mostly that are culturally-created meaning systems as defenses against existential terror—and thus social fictions are used to avoid dealing honestly with that deep unconscious terror).

That’s just one part of my thesis here, then there are all the psychoanalytical implications of say “staff” working under “authorities” and so on. Or patients trying to survive under “authorities” who have at times, literally, control of their life—that is, control of their death. I have written some about that in my latest Technical Paper No. 98. With all these conflicting dynamics as part of communications and basic existence, there is often as Furedi described above, a competition of scaremongering going on as part of people trying to control their world. I don’t mean a natural control within reason, I mean an irrational neurotic and obsessive control. At times, some critics have said, today people are addicted to fear and that glues the whole culture of fear system together. I often meet people who cannot stand the word fearlessness because they say they want to keep their fear. And, I wonder exactly what they mean? Do they want to keep their addiction? Anyways, most people are just not well-enough educated on the history of the culture of fear phenomenon at the base of social life and cultural formations and evolution. Anyways, maybe that’s deeper than you are interested or see as practical in the workplace (?). I’m a fearologist so I cannot restrict myself in researching deeper on the topic of fear (and ‘fear’) and society.

Nonye:  Sure, I absolutely respect your deeper exploratory views on fear as a fearologist. I’m truly honored to have gained more insights from your work about these other aspects of fear management that I otherwise may not have been privileged to learn about. Thanks so much Michael for this interesting dialogue and I wish you much success in your upcoming book project on the past Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson [8].

RMF: Not that there is any one clear all-decided definition of a fearologist and what they are supposed to do, but over 20 years ago, I made a commitment to be able to be informed enough, and maybe even bring some wisdom, to conversations about fear with virtually anyone, and especially to be able to do so across the disciplines and professions. So, it’s been great to have this conversation with someone in the field of Medicine and Health Care. That really means a lot to me. Thanks.

And as for Ladher’s comment, from a medical perspective in that article, my response is: Let’s not overly jump ahead too far when we call out the problems of a culture of fear dynamic, and especially let’s not think that the culture of fear is only in some workplace, the home, the school or on the streets of some ghetto; my point in this dialogue has been to show, there is no “end of the culture of fear” per se, in the concrete sense—more so, there is an educational project that is required from K to 12 and beyond, across societies—whereby we actually teach about how best to educate ourselves on what fear is and what a culture of fear is that constitutes the way fear takes forms. All relationships are inducted into this matrix. Once we understand better, then we can start thinking about the “end of the culture of fear”—but, from my view, that means we have to end this Dominant culture that pervades, that oppresses, and transform its worldview to a new and better one—not based on fear itself. I posit a culture of fearlessness is the replacement. For some, they might say, a culture of love is the replacement. And, from that point of contention—is a whole other interesting dialogue to be had.

End Notes:

  1. Furedi, F. (2018). How fear works: Culture of fear in the twenty-first century. Bloomsbury Continuum, p. 5.  
  1. Fisher, R. M. (2020). Culture of fear: A critical history of two streams. Technical Paper No. 98. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.  
  1. Fisher, R. M. (2004). Capitalizing on fear: A baseline study on the culture of fear for leaders. Intellectual Architects, Ltd.  
  1. Aghanya, N. T. (2016). Simple tips to developing a productive clinician-patient relationship. iUniverse; Aghanya, N. T. (2019). Principles for overcoming communication anxiety and improving trust. Folioavenue Publishing.  
  1. To study the 10 fear management systems, I argue is a way to expand one’s knowledge of a full spectrum of consciousness and cultural systems, moving from more simple and immature to more complex and mature (i.e., ultimately, towards an emancipatory pull to ‘freedom’ and/or ‘enlightenment’ whatever one wants to call it); see the 10 fear management systems documented in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world’s fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield.  
  1. E.g., see the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death); and, the social psychologists who have ‘proven’ Becker’s theories and created “Terror Management Theory” (e.g., Sheldon Solomon et al.).  
  1. Furedi, pp. 4-5.  
  1. She is referring to Michael’s book soon to be released by Peter Lang, Inc. entitled: “The Marianne Williamson Presidential Phenomenon: Cultural (R)Evolution in a Dangerous Time.” Nonye wrote an endorsement review about the book, “The gradual advances of a change agent may encounter numerous hiccups on its pathway to implementing change; but with honesty, grace and compassion the committed will forge ahead towards success. The book reflects such a journey of both the author and his subject. R. Michael Fisher, in both an exploratory and objective fashion, provides riveting detailed accounts of many observers who have encountered the remarkable social phenomenon, which has grown in and around a once American presidential candidate—Marianne Deborah Williamson, a true change agent. One must applaud her clear moral stance as a driver of a movement gaining momentum because of this quality of leadership, with a mission for pursuit of greatness in service of others....It is a democratic mission not driven by personal gain but rather driven by eternal fulfilment and the awareness that the benefits of righteousness far exceed those of condemnation. We really need this ‘message’ today.”

Nonye T. Aghanya, MSc., RN, FNP-C, nurse, nurse educator, author, mother and so much more. Originally from Nigeria, she moved as a young person to the USA, now living in Alexandria, VA.  [for a recent 30 min. talk on her work go to: https://bit.ly/3k6HB1X ]

Michael Fisher, Ph.D., artist, educational theorist, author and teacher, has dedicated his life-purpose to the study of fear and fearlessness. He was born and raised in Calgary, AB and after traveling and working internationally, he has returned to Calgary to live and spread the word.

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International Journal of Fear Studies

Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Approaches

 

Call for Papers and Creative Submissions:

Theme ISSUE: “Living and Learning in Pandemic Times”

 

Submissions Due Aug. 1, 2020 for the 4th issue of IFJS.

Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic dynamics have really changed our lives. What are we learning in this context of such pervasive fear... and more...? Are there better ways to handle all this?   

FOR the full details of Submission and about the Journal IJFS fourth call Apil 12 .docx

 

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"...the [research] findings show that how we choose to deal with our fear, critically depends on our cultural worldview" - Bobby Azarian (2020) 

"We have an existential threat on our hands, our Left-Right divide, I believe, is by far the most important divide we face....This is the urugent need of the next 50 years." - Jonathan Haidt (2016) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-_Az5nZBBM]

Dr. Bobby Azarian, cognitive neuroscientist, has put together an excellent basic video on the social and cognitive science research that can help explain why "fear" is at core the factor of political, religious and other forms of polarization in social systems. He has worked with the Terror Management Theory (of Ernest Becker, et al.), whereby in this video he takes us through a rapid teaching of major issues and findings. He offers, interestingly, a "cosmic perspective" as basis for a worldview that will be an anti-dote to the polarizing and violent course that American society and a lot of the world is heading down--including the direction toward fascism and authoritarianism, etc. I highly recommend Azarian's (fast-lane hyper) teaching video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvMkz1wy6_U

[Note: as much as Terror Management Theory and neurobiology of fear, and cognitive sciences offer an important direction of knowledge to combat the effects of fear as an emotion/feeling (i.e., a response to threat), I have always questioned how these disciplines and fields of study have not really added much at all to reconceptualizing fear (or 'fear'), fearuality, fear management/education, fearism, etc.). I think there needs to be a lot more dialogue between these knowledge domains and with Fear Management Theory as I promote, then more potent combinations will inevitably lead to a better "fear education" for the 21st century. ]

ADDITIONAL READING:

Azarian apparently has been researching a good deal on "fear" in political orientation, along with many others, it is a vast field of research which I support in general. I found this following article a good one to challenge stereotypes (I offer an excerpt only with link to the full article):

Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  heartland-american  •  2 years ago  •  194 comments
No, Liberals, You’re Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear
 

Liberals don’t get conservatives. New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt, formerly a liberal himself, showed how much more liberals misunderstand conservatives than vice versa. And when they get conservatives wrong, often it’s by saying we’re “afraid.” Irrationally afraid, even; in fact, we’re “driven by fear.” They’re wrong: conservatism isn’t about fear. But they keep repeating it anyway.

Take the Psychology Today article, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives’ Political Attitudes.” (I just love it when they portray us in such a healthy light, don’t you?)

Biased Interpretations (Part 1)

The author, Bobby Azarian, tells us conservatives have a problem. People on the right “fear new experiences,” says. Based on what evidence, you ask? It’s the stuff college students keep in their dorm rooms. Researchers at Berkeley found that liberal students have more travel-related items, while conservatives have more planning- and cleaning-related items.

“This tells us that liberals more often seek adventure and novel experiences,” says Azarian. “Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to prefer a more ordered, disciplined lifestyle.” Okay, I get that there’s a difference there. I’ve got several questions, though. (First rule of reading science journalism: Ask lots of questions.)

First, why weren’t fear or anxiety even mentioned in the original research report? (They’re brought up briefly in the literature review section, but not where the current research was discussed.)

Second, what about the thousands upon thousands of conservative Christians who take mission trips to less-developed, often deadly parts of the world every year? How is Azarian going to explain this “fear” to them?

How on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

And third, based strictly on Azarian’s article alone, how on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

Conservatives’ dorm rooms only reflect fear if fear is what you’re looking for.....He tells us that MRIs show that the amygdala, a fear-related brain region, is larger on average in conservatives than in liberals. “It is possible,” says Azarian, “that an oversized amygdala could create a heightened sensitivity that may cause one to habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat, whether it actually is one or not.”

 [excerpt only]

 Read the entire rebuttal to Azarian et al.,:  https://stream.org/no-liberals-youre-wrong-conservatism-isnt-about-fear/

[Note: my own take as a fearologist is that it will generally be a fallacy of fear-mongering if either side of the political spectrum is caught in a 'game' of 'you have more fear; no, you have more fear' --etc. I have labled this the Fear Wars, long ago. This is where fearology can contribute a whole new perspective on that 'game' (dead-end) and truly lift the dialogue to include the typical fear(s) talk which is valid but take it to a new level where polarization can be dissolved in more potent ways, theoretically... that's a much longer conversation but involves my own (amongst others) work on a fearlessness psychology]

 

 

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Because I am a professional educator per se, it has always struck me how far behind the field of Education (and schooling) is, just about everywhere in the world, when it comes to advancing the notion of "fear management" and, what I prefer to call "fear management/education" (or simply, "fear education"). I'll be writing more about this in the near future blogs here, but just wanted to share this book resource Fear and Schools that looks interesting from the book description: 

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Fear and a General Social Theory[1] 

-R. Michael Fisher [notes: June 16/20]

                    Introductory Issues of the Social & World

Recently, it occurred to me that no one will really ‘get’ my work adequately until they ‘get’ that my work is foundationally a social theory of fear (management/education). I am deeply a social thinker/theorist and philosopher and educator, who has, unfortunately, not helped the waves of mis-understandings of my work for 31 years because I have not systematically written out my general social theory as context for my work. I am beginning to take on this daunting project. This essay consists of beginning shreds of what is on my mind and is by no means a ‘finished’ work. It is noticeably somewhat nostalgic, at least for me, in that to recover the ‘social’ in my work, and in my life, I have had to return to the past of my first systematic studies of knowledge and disciplines when I was 20 years old to my 30s. If these references seem ‘old’ or ‘out of date’ to readers, I won’t apologize for how important and relevant they are in ‘messages’ for today—but, certainly, this general social theory I am attempting needs up-dating with newer thinkers for sure—yet, all in time. I want to keep things relatively simple to start with. I appreciate your patience with my somewhat nostalgic turn.  

As part of Social Sciences, social theory seems essential to my fearanalysis project [2] on the Fear Problem. It is an approach to all phenomenon (e.g., especially fear and its management/education) primarily through the lens of the social sphere of reality. Social theory today, in the Anthropocene era, also has to be part of Biological and especially Environmental Sciences, because global cascading crises are putting the survival and quality of life on this planet at-high-risk, moving existence regularly into emergencies. COVID-19 is the latest episode showing how vulnerable Homo sapiens is.  

The basic purpose overall of these Sciences seen through my own value-based lens, is that of “making man [sic] more aware of the consequences of his actions.”[3] Awareness has to do with learning, and that is why my profession is Education. I turn now to explicate my evolved, yet still evolving, social theory as a synthesis of many others’ critical thinking and research. It is not too embarrassing to say my social theory is quite unique in the history of thought.

                   Theorizing: Natural Sciences Are Social

 It is essential for humans as a whole, and for me to remember that the aim of the knowledge quest (i.e., learning and education) is to,

 ....establish the process of human development as the goal of the process of social evolution, both the process and the goal being understood to be open to further transformation as we advance in the practice and understanding of them.[4]

 And furthermore, there is a search still going on across large domains of societies functions, and within the inner searching and reflecting that humans do at times, to find a better “image” of our selves—of our nature, of our potential—and to do so, as crucial so that we don’t become crushed by harsh realities of the everyday human condition (i.e., of a good deal of suffering). Markley & Harman (1982) spoke to this in a way that made sense for me in my youthful scholarship days, and still resonates today:

 It seems evident that the characteristics we postulated for an adequate image [of the human] cannot be fulfilled unless such a new type of policy paradigm comes into existence—a paradigm that provides a far closer reconciliation of C. P. Snow’s ‘two cultures’ (the sciences and the humanities) than has heretofore seemed feasible [in modern times]. Central in this pursuit would be the reconciliation of the objective inquiry methods found suitable for learning to manipulate the external/physical environment and the inquiry methods which are emerging to similarly explore the subjective/internal/psychical environment of our living. Likely such an umbrella paradigm will not be possible without the emergence of other, somewhat more specialized but nevertheless holistic [-integral], paradigms to support it.[5]

 In Markley & Harman’s profound search for a “moral science,” “moral economics” and politics for a sustainable, healthy and sane future, they know that a “moral paradigm” lies below them all, which is something I have always been interested in but I am not a “moralist” or “virtues” prophet/teacher or thinker. That’s a topic that arrives much later in this essay and social theory. Suffice it to say at this point, my approach to ethics and morals and the ‘good’ and ‘true’ and ‘beautiful’ will be strongly tainted in this work with the social as environment—and, it is this environmental emphasis that is most conducive to pulling out and foreword why I think the social is so critical to any good fear studies (and fear management/education) today and in the future. To note, the marriage of objective and subjective that Markley & Harman recommend, not totally radical, is very important to my own holistic-integral approach to knowledge and living, of which Wilber (1995) has added another vector of polarities to build a more adequate and complete (and moral) epistemological quadrant analysis. He adds: individual and communal sphere. When I speak of the “social” so forthright and as forming everything in human affairs, I am not excluding the other quadrant inputs into the social sphere of reality but including them, even if they are lesser focused on.  

I more or less ‘hated’ public school. I was born and raised poor working class. The whole system seemed rigged, even though I am a white guy (Canadian), to benefit those who already were privileged by class. The more would get the more and doing well in education was seemingly their way of greasing their wheels of progress (success).  Post-secondary schooling nor societal success meant anything important to me until my 19th year of life (after graduation from high school in a technical curriculum stream for the ‘dummies’). One course in grades 10-12 really was a place for me to shine—Biology. I was a budding naturalist (thanks to my dad, my uncle, my older brother). Learning science was hard but I did it and learned things I cared about—that is, how Life works. By my 19th year I was dedicated to pursue secondary education and make a career in science (e.g., forestry or something). The rest is history. As I went through careers and more and more degrees, “Science” grew in scope and dimensions in ways I could have never predicted back in my late teens or early 20s. Today, I reluctantly, would call myself a “scientist” but at-heart I really am. I am a little more comfortable being called a “philosopher” at-heart, an “artist”—and yet, my graduate Ph.D. training ended with a doctorate in Education.

                  Fear is Social

A most basic premise of my life’s work is that fear is social, or more accurately, that the nature and role of fear for humans cannot be understood without a social perspective. At some level, thus, my hypothesis is that: social fear is the best descriptor for all fears and fear itself. Contentious perhaps. I’ll return to that topic later. Now, I wish to claim that science is always social—and, the corollary, all science is social science. Let me explain.

                  Scientists are Social

It is no surprise that from anthropology to ecology and evolutionary studies, many scientists have concluded that “Homo sapiens” is a social species. It sounds simple to conclude. It seems true. What it exactly means and the implications are much more profound, as I have found to be the case over the decades. I think most people don’t really think about this.

Despite the history of Science being diverse, with all its twists and turns and shifts in its role and the ways scientists themselves saw their efforts to build scientific knowledge, it is likely true that at the end of the 19th century most scientists were relatively “unconcerned as to where they ought to be going. They saw no point in formulating social goals for their professional work, because they regarded science as an end rather than a means.” And many then, as still now, do not want their scientific work determined by social (e.g., economic and political) agendas of interest groups or the public at-large, according to Dubos (1970, p. 229). More characteristically, the scientists overall have not seen their own profession as a social enterprise itself—that is, shaped overly by influences from the social sphere including by non-scientists.

It is hard for the vast majority of scientists (maybe less so today) to believe that what they do intellectually may be socially-determined—in whole or in part. Kuhn’s (1970) classical analysis of the paradigm shifts of the scientific enterprise validates just how social science communities are. Scientists likely find that thought of socially-determined, socially-responsible or “mission-oriented”[6] science rather loathsome, and beneath their self-integrity. They are very proud of their elite scientific training. I remember, the same feeling when I was fully in science education processes and working as a scientist of sorts. To get a masters or doctoral degree in some science adds to their privilege and sense of self-esteem. They see they are in a scientific establishment and career in order to best perform good (or even ‘pure’) science. No one should be telling them or even much influencing them who isn’t a scientist.[7] The very reason of bringing this issue of Science to the foreground to begin my general social theory explication tells you something about how important I think Science is today; And especially, it tells you that I agree with Dubos (50 years ago) that the best way to talk about the current (at least Western) society is under the umbrella term “scientific civilization.”[8]

                  Civilization Types: Evolving Fear(s)

As civilizations, many humans have thus evolved from tribal, to agricultural, to industrial—all because of an advance in Science (and technologies). Since late-modernity, that’s been recognized as a mixed blessing for those of us in the latter forms of civilization. Myself included, we have begun to realize the paradox of progress via Science that is now creating some of the worst nightmares of which are capable of extinguishing all civilization (e.g., nuclear weapons, anthropogenic accelerated global warming, clear-cutting forests, mining, etc.). It is arguable, that there have been new fears created and overcome at each level of civilization type listed above. However, it is also arguable, the current chronic level of fear(s) in the highly scientific civilization type is accumulative (post-traumatic) and worse than other civilizations. If so, it is another hypothesis of my social theory that with increasing progress, comings increasing social fear (of the most destructive kinds). But let’s return to my thinking on Science before focusing on other aspects of my social theory (of fear).

                  Need for a Social Theory of Science

It has been a great gain to knowledge generally to develop the history of science and open-up the world of Science to historians and the public. It may well be, as Dubos suggested, that it is more important for citizens in a true democracy to be critical in their literacy of how Science functions than needing to know all the facts of science and its applications.[9] It is great to have a grasp of both, but at least it is important to learn about science as a social activity that ought to serve social purposes, as well as intellectual purposes. For example, to learn about science is to learn as a layperson that “scientific knowledge is never absolute or final, yet it remains valid when considered in the social and intellectual framework within which it was developed.”[10] Another example, “scientists hardly ever disagree on the validity of the facts themselves, but only [mostly] on the interpretation and use of the these facts.”[11]

The argument I am making, as did Dubos 50 years ago, is that all science operates with shifting “fashions”[12]—that is, it is socially contextualized ‘not an island to itself’ and visa versa “all social decisions now have scientific determinants,”[13] whether we recognize them or not. Snow’s (1959) lecture on The Two Cultures—of facts (science) vs. values (social morals and/or religion)—raised critical questions of the long modern separation of these realms; and, suggested how they ought not be fully disengaged from each other. Integral philosopher, Ken Wilber, notes that Snow called both facts and values inherently “cultures” and thus serve as social phenomena. He argued knowledge is best for cultures/societies when they are not totally battling, competing, and thus end up dissociated and divorced; but rather, today we have to work to repair their ancient marriage[14] so that a higher holistic-integration of knowledge can once again yield wisdom and guidance for the modern, late-modern and post-modern times. There’s a need for a new thinking today—and, more so than ever it will have to be around the notion of fear. I am calling my version of this, as core to my methodological concerns, integral social thinking.

               Methodology of Integral Social Thinking (IST)

As I attempt to introduce this emergent sense that my social theory itself has to be based on integral social thinking—troubling questions of knowing arise. Philosophers call this ontological and epistemological issues. I’ll start with the “integral” part of thinking—which, comes from a long venerable tradition of integral philosophies and theories in history,[15] of which, for example, Wilber (1995) is one of the most prescient of these thinkers, and has influenced my ways of thinking since the early 1980s.

Yet, there is a further problem not so overtly dealt with as an epistemological problem in integral thinking and style, which I must mention. In the study of fear itself (meaning, the human-fear-self-social relationship dynamic) there is a problem of attempting to know something (perhaps, a prior conceptions that are faded or invisible) that is escaping its very knowability. You open a black sealed box to study something locked away inside for generations, but in assuming the light you shine on it will reveal its essence, you more or less destroy the operation and object/subject you are analyzing because it is not the proper ‘method’ to disclose the essence of that which lives in a ‘black box.’

Using this ‘black box’ as metaphor or analogy, this is what I learned in my youth when I (and others) first encountered the nascent field of “ecology.”[16] I cannot help but be an ecological thinker, but that gets massively more complex than approaching an ecological problem of studying Nature when one brings the light of investigation to Culture—in this case, my pursuit of a social theory and a fear theory simultaneously—things get very tricky, to say the least. I’ve hinted at this problem (part of the larger Fear Problem) in my earliest works in the late 1980’s into the early 1990s and why I demarcated my subject of study of fear as ‘fear’ with (‘) marks[17] to signify something I really didn’t know even what it was I was studying or what methods would be best for doing so). The progressive futurists Markley & Harman (1982) touched somewhat on the enigmatic attitude and sensibility in which a researcher has to imbue when after a topic, with humility, with the arational and rational modes, as they articulated one way to capture the same troubling question I am now explicating:

How does one study a priori conceptions which, by definition, are fundamental to and lie beyond the [standard] rules of inquiry of any particular discipline [of knowledge, and knowing, and understanding]? (p. xxi)

I chose to assume “fear” (and ‘fear’) as already embedded in a black box of a prior phenomenon/conceptions and no one discipline or even a couple disciplines could unravel the hidden subtle nature of fear (‘fear’). To be playful, I enlisted a neologism of “fearology” to act as a transdisciplinary approach to the topic. However, there was more I had to deal with in Markley & Harman (1982) and what they called “bricolage thinking” – and my attempt to:

....discern fundamental and usually unrecognized influences on our societal problems, on our social policies, and on our hopes [aspirations] for the future....our aim is to break out of set patterns of thinking (and hence recognize useful new ways of thinking and imaging” (p. xxi)

More specifically, my nascent methodological rationale was built upon both a defence against, and an offense for, a better knowledge about fear (‘fear’) that was already socially embedded in culture—which I soon would discover other scholars talking about how near everything today is embedded in a “culture of fear” (which by 2000, I talked about as a ‘Fear’ Matrix and/or a decade before that, I talked about a largely invisible ubiquitous form of oppression called “fearism”). I felt intuitively, and theorized from my reading, research and phenomenological experiences, that fear was already ‘hooked’ into living inside a black box that for many good reasons could not be opened or if it was it might yield more than the investigator could handle anyways (e.g., you may note the analogy here with the myths of Pandora’s Box, Icarus, Prometheus from ancient Greek as ‘warnings’ to human hubris—likewise, in psychoanalytical theory and practice there is the cautionary of any inquiry into the unconscious).

The invocation from the start of my study of fear to be in search of “fearlessness” was not by chance, albeit, I knew little of what complexity and black box I would bump into as well on this latter subject. In a nutshell, I assumed (sometimes concluded) that the deep territory of fear was an a prior social taboo (and ‘fear’ was even more elusive, denied, repressed and dangerous territory). All fear is a priori social—social fear (i.e., we humans are sociophobic,[18] in other words, and I do not just mean this term like contemporary clinical psychiatrists would use it—as “fear of the social”—although, in part that is applicable too). Thus, I had stumbled in my early years in and around this troubling situation of the social sphere and how much or how little to let it into my investigations of fear. It seems that transdisciplinary study pushes one into creative synthesis of methodologies and multiple ways of knowing, and asks us to be not overly disciplined in trying too hard to control your subject and tools of inquiry....

[to be continued....]

References

Dubos, R. (1970). Reason awake: Science for man. Columbia University Press.

Fisher, R. M. (1995a/12). An introduction to defining ‘fear’: A spectrum approach. Technical Paper No. 1. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

Fisher, R. M. (1995b/12). An  introduction to an epistemology of ‘fear’: A fearlessness paradigm. Technical Paper No. 2. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

Kuhn, T. (1962/96). The structure of scientific revolutions. [3rd. ed.] The University of Chicago Press.

Markley, O. W., & Harman, W. W. (1982). Changing images of man. Pergamon Press.

McIntosh, S. (2007). Integral consciousness and the future of evolution: How the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality. Paragon House.

Odum, E. P. (1972). Fundamentals of ecology [3rd ed.]. W. B. Saunders.

Scruton, D. L. (Ed.) (1986). Sociophobics:  The anthropology of fear. Westview Press.

Wilber, K. (1998). The marriage of sense and soul: Integrating science and religion. Random House.

Wilber, K. (1995). Sex, ecology and spirituality: The spirit in evolution [Vol. 1]. Shambhala.

 

END NOTES

[1] Cf. to Skoll (2010) “Social theory of fear: Terror, torture, and death in a post-capitalist world.”

[2] Overtly, I co-founded the In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989-) for this work, more implicitly this is a fearanalysis I am doing on the entire phenomenon of humans and fear and life. I have several short publications on "fearanalysis" but the book on this is still to be finalized and published (with the first draft of "An Introduction to Fearanalysis" still sitting on my shelf from 2016). 

[3] Dubos (1970), p. 229.

[4] Quote from Dunn (1971), cited in Markley & Harman (1982), p. 156.

[5] Ibid., p. 157.

[6] Ibid., p. 219.

[7] “[M]any scientists are more interested in the advancement of [scientific] knowledge, than in its possession [by non-scientists]” (Dubos, 1970, p. 209).

[8] Ibid., Chapter 5.

[9] Ibid., p. 215.

[10] Ibid., pp. 217-18, 219.

[11] Ibid. p. 220.

[12] “Rapid and profound shifts of emphasis [on what and how things are studied scientifically] have repeatedly occurred in the scientific community, in part because fashions change in science even more than in other types of endeavors, also because social [and economic] concerns inevitably affect intellectual preoccupation” (Dubos, 1970, p. 217); see also Kuhn (1970).

[13] Ibid., p. 207.

[14] Wilber (1998).

[15] One could make a massive long list of ‘integral’ thinkers going back to ancient times; they are the ‘renaissance’ types that integrated vast domains of different spheres of knowledge, arts, sciences, religion etc. More recently, in philosophy, one can identify several thinkers and lines within philosophy itself that have the qualities of the holistic-integral thinker (and/or “integral consciousness” and/or “integral worldview,” according to McIntosh (2007) some recognizable leaders of this integral movement are Georg Hegel, Henri Bergson, James Mark Baldwin, Teilhard de Chardin, Alfred North Whitehead, Jean Gebser, Jürgen Habermas, Ken Wilber (pp. 151-54).

[16] Odum (1971) refers to this (after G. E. Hutchinson’s notion) ‘black box’ conception as hololgical (p. 22) and which refers to complex systems that one can only study by realizing the “internal workings...are but vaguely known” (and may not be known) (p. 105).

[17] Fisher (1995a, 1995b).

[18] It is not by chance the first major initiative (I know of) in academic work to bring “fear” study out from under the umbrella of the hegemonic dominating grips of the biomedical and psychological fields (i.e., Natural sphere), into the Cultural (social) sphere—via anthropology/sociology/social psychology was called sociophobics (Scruton, 1986). The Spiritual (religious, theological) sphere, including much of philosophy also had taken on “fear” study but that is beyond the scope of the discussion here.

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Fear Studies and Trauma Studies Link

5250879675?profile=RESIZE_584x

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hATcs4Zpdqo to watch Thomas Hubl and Otto Sharmer in recent dialogue... 

I have always taught that the significant area of Fear Studies (include 'fear' studies) has to be linked to evolutionary theory, defense psychology theory (e.g., Freud's defense mechanisms, and Ernest Becker's views as well, as found in Terror Management Theory)--but my teaching has always been that why "fear" is so important (and often toxic) is because of humans being "hurt" (i.e., traumatized and not yet healed from past hurts). Hubl puts forward his 3 "Forces" (or "drives") in his own evolutionary theory of transformation, with the last one "trauma" being critically important, if not the most important to understand better than we usually do.  

 

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4620940281?profile=RESIZE_584x

 

Dr. Bruck Liption, a cell-biologist and spiritual philosopher, offers his latest 10 min. video on the coronavirus (Covid-19) 'flu' problem in the world right now and he has strong statements about the nature and role of fear in this pandemic and quarantine. The first few minutes of the video he teaches about the immunological perspective. 

"Fear" is the "biggest problem" in terms of where this virus pandemic is, is going, and will continue to go. That's his view. I tend to agree. I have always respected Lipton's research and teachings going back into the early 1990s and he has always had interesting theories about "fear"... that said, I do not agree with everything he says. I'll leave it up to readers of the FM ning to discuss this and/or ask me about my critiques, at this point. 

Lipton starts the video off with "Stop the fear, take care of yourself." -- and, of course, that can mean a whole lot of things, including, how do we best define what fear is, and what if we do not know completely what it is and there are unconscious fear aspects that are affecting everything as well related to Covid-19 reactionary actions (?)... Lipton assumes we already know everything we need to know about fear, and he does his "scientist" thing in the video ... 

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