“Released some wandering mind thoughts.” -CB
Asynchronous Dialogue of R. M. Fisher With CB
Fisher: Yes, I always appreciate it when someone writes a long and raw letter to me as part of our relationship of co-inquiry (loosely speaking) into the nature of life, reality, identity and what this world is all about. Then to dive into sharing about the investigations and mind wanderings into “fear” and “fearology is even more of a treat. In all my life studying fear, I have not met a more dedicated person to write back and forth with about fear than CB. CB is a much younger man than I. I met him in Calgary in 2019 or so when we lived just down the block from each other. I moved away in 2021, so our in close proximity relationship was short-lived, but we decided to write to each other whenever we felt the desire or need. CB writes more to me than I do to him, but I always respond. He appreciates just having a ‘space’ of nonjudgmental reception. I have been so impressed with his thinking and sincerity to know and improve his life and that of others around him, albeit, struggling with the great limitations of him being able to do either. His life is very much ‘on the edge’ as I see it and yet, he makes it through day by day. It astounds me that he will take on projects and often not finish them, then takes on more. He can even be a hoarder that way and that causes lots of problems.
At times I feel he is characteristic of someone slightly on the mild end of the autism spectrum, at other times I feel he is just an honest human and I really love having him in my life. Why wouldn’t I love his obsessiveness to learn. CB is the only person I know who has watched systematically in the last two years all of my 150 videos on my Youtube channel and most of which are on fear and fearlessness. He is a thinker and then thinks about thinking. He is a natural philosopher. Self-taught mostly, with no academic schooling beyond secondary education other than the school of life. Easily, he could do a masters or a doctorate degree if he was inclined and found the right department and field to go into. I’m not sure he cares much about that. He reads a lot and listens to a tonne of radio programs (day and night) that are about knowledge and ideas that really matter.
With that context, now I’ll turn to a bit our most recent exchange, which starts with identity as I consider this more important on one level than the discussion on fearology. Yet, fearology is where I think things really matter in our conversation and identity and fear are close twins, as you will see in my comments on his comments below. [note: I have excerpted with CB’s permission bits and re-arranged them slightly in this iteration of “some wandering mind thoughts”. Thanks CB.
CB: So I took some time as I was writing through the night, now later this morning, to pull out Erik Erikson’s "Identity and the Life Cycle". Reading about the ideas of what I will call the donning and doffing of identity in a social context. The reconciling of self-identity with the social construction of identities within which we live. The acceptance and non-acceptance of individual self-identity within the socially acceptable identities, all of which are changing, submerging and re-emerging over time. I am thinking the donning and doffing is important in order to remain flexible to the changing landscape, socialscape. Seems important to not become too dependent on a particular clothing of identity. One can’t help notice, this societal moment of multiple crises, including identity, where so many seem to be seeking a simple(r) identity that will somehow solve the complexity in which we live.
Fisher: Good snooping and sorting you are doing (like so many these days) around "identity" stuff, which is sounding fruitful, if not more and more complicated. My latest thinking is that we'd be all a lot better off (ha ha) if we saw ourselves as a community and hybrid of many others--a companion species with other species at all times (knowing it or not)--and, a posthuman perspective is I think the better way to go in general (much more in alignment with an Indigenous perspective)... or even that we are a diasporic identity I think is more realistic and as the world becomes under such pressures and so much 'movement' going on with immigrating and emigrating under climate change, wars and other tragedies-- we are all 'diasporic' in some sense--now, the question is, is that a good thing--it will really make one flexibly adaptable that's for sure-- a larger argument ('against') the grand search for 'home.' [some of the best thinking and writing on posthumanist identity comes these days from Bayo Akomolafe, and his Yoruba perspective as a black man and Nigerian now living in India and part-time in the USA; see his 2017 book, for e.g., These Wild’s Beyond Our Fences; he also has many talks on Youtube]
The Problem With Fearologies
[as editor:] I start this off with my agreement with CB’s critique of one particular psychologist who called themselves a “fearologist” and has made some videos on “fearology” and attempting to legitimize it as a proper field of study and usefulness, but unfortunately they have not done their homework well. There may be other reasons as well for their lack of rigor on this topic. I start with my quickie reply to CB and then give his perspective which he came to about fearologies he was seeing out there on the Internet.
Fisher: First node response: [re: Dr. Mary Poppenroff] "It kind of doesn’t feel too integral to me." [CB was not impressed with Poppenroff’s interview] Yup, that was my experience listening to that same interview several years ago and reaching out as I have to Mary P. a few times to publish an article in the International Journal of Fear Studies, and other reaching out --but she has evaded me from the start pretty much. Ho hum... It was good to read your crit. to see I am not alone in what I've picked up about this so-called self-proclaimed "fearologist."
CB: So here I am in the wee hours of the morning after spending my overnight wandering through a search of “Fearology” on the internet. I imagine you have done this before. I know you have - (by this I mean, doing a search of the term Fearology).
Staying up all night following random thoughts maybe a bit over-the-top, maybe not so much what I am referring to that you woud do. You say have done such a similar search in one of the website links that came up for me:
Interesting to read through this document you wrote and published. “Integral Fearology: A study of the Fearology of Fearologies.” That helped me to see your work better when put that way.
So then I searched Fearology and read another of your pieces linked to above: "A Research Agenda To Legitimate The Study of ‘Fear’: Beginning Fearology 2000-2011." In there I read with a smile. I wasn’t aware you have already done an interview with CBC radio’s host Shelagh Rogers, way back in 2004. I have been thinking for a while that there are quite a few CBC program’s which could/should explore your work.
Then I went through this two part series podcast (you are likely familiar):
Very thankful that this podcast of host Alie Ward could be listened to at faster speeds. After going through so many of your YouTube videos this podcast interview with Mary Poffenroth seemed a bit superficial. Also I’m a bit disappointed they referenced one of your books at about the 3.20 mark but didn’t bother to reference you as the author. Doubly irritating given many references to various other people’s Youtube videos and such linked below their podcast on Allie Ward’s website, your work was not acknowledged. They could have at least put a link to your work! They also passingly say later around the 17.17 mark that most books Mary researched to become a fearologist were: ( 1) about extremes of fear or, were (2) more pseudoscience [thus Poffenroth was critical of their mis-informing people]. Maybe I am hearing that overly negatively, but neither of those categories describes your work. Not cool.
[the entire interview in summation:] Very psychological, and "fear as emotion," is the presumption throughout, or as Mary says "fear = stress, they are the same thing." At a few points along the way in the 2 hour or so of this series of talks, Mary describes herself as looking at fear in the more everyday experience and is not as interested in serious disorders, and that she sees herself as looking at fear in an integral way. It kind of doesn’t feel too integral to me.
Okay, I give some credit. There are some (maybe) useful ideas of her’s like RIA (Recognize, Identify, Address) individual fear, as a management approach. But it is for me a fairly limited treatment of things. Also, I’m not so enthusiastic about her idea about our fears (at an individual, emotional level) which can be so neatly categorized as being “factual” or “fictional.” I can see how she could build such categories but describing someone’s fear as being fictional might be problematic, or worst, demeaning.
As I just wandered here from my previous search of “the metaphor menu” and the whole problem associated with seeing living with a disease as a battle only, maybe I am more sensitive to seeing some fears as fictional and others as factual as maybe a not so ideal framimg. Then again, maybe our whole life is fictional. In way, maybe it is, so in a way maybe that is a factual part of life?
[Fisher: CB and I agree on this fuzzy boundary of fictional and factual, and the way they can get inflated with, respectively, abnormal and normal, of which btw is pretty much how all clinical professionals are heavily indoctrinated, and so it is not surprising to me a clinical psychologist type like Poffenroth would slide into the binaries of this study of fear(s) and build her theories and models upon that foundation—a very dubious one, and one that I do not promote in the true study called “fearology”]
CB: Towards the end of the second part of the series she did describe how difficult it can be to talk about fear, and with talking to colleagues about fear. That seemed to echo some of what you have talked about with regards to the tricky nature of fear and the difficulties in engaging people and academia in talking about and studying fear. So that part seemed to feel like a grappling with a more hidden aspect of fear that was otherwise somewhat absent in the series. At least the host Alie Ward used your work to make the claim that Fearology is a real word! More people who do that will make it so, perhaps. While she didn’t reference you properly, she did refer to your work and at the same time indirectly described you as an expert. The quote:
2.53 “Ward. Is Fearology a word?” . . . 3.20 “I looked it up and Fearology is, in fact, a real word, as it's been used in books about fear like: "Philosophy and Fearism - an East West Dialogue" [I initiated that book and was lead author, with my colleague from Nepal, Desh Subba] and a few other experts in stress and fear and anxiety use the word fearology so, I think it is a super critical field of study and thus I am throwing my weight behind making it an even realer, more commonly used word. Fearology. Let’s do this. Let’s talk about it," says Alie.
As I say I was glad I could listen mostly at 1.5 or 2x speed. I am a bit tired so maybe not as patient about this one. For a Dr. of status, I was not impressed with Poffenroth’s level of thinking on fear. I am sure she earned her Ph.D. She is well spoken and really does seem very versed in what she is describing. I also should be careful to not confuse her upbeat style with a stereotype of not being scholarly, but the ideas presented, which the host finds “mind-blowing,” do not seem to dig deeper into the nature of fear particularly. Her RIA idea kind of sums up her approach Recognize it, Identify it, Address it. And, I presume, move on from it. It is maybe ok at that level, but it seems limited to me now. Watching your videos appears to have me wanting more than I got here.
Then I ended my night of wandering the Internet, with the Fearology Centre page on the Apocatastasis Institute website.
Fisher: This is my latest ‘center within a center’ project, as I was invited by John Coleman, after he did an interview with me on his podcast on the topic of fear(ology) some months ago. This recent implant at the Apocatastasis Institute for the Humanities, is a humble initiative in the realm of alternatives in higher education. I look forward to working there as one of my sites of teaching/learning/activism in the world.
CB: At The Fearology Centerpage, I worked more or less from the bottom of the page to the top and ended with your video about "Education and Trust.” This video is very resonant for me. Hearing one of your favourite quotes from Albert Camus (1946) re: the 20 century will be “the century of fear” is a good one. I have heard you refer to this quote before. For whatever reason it sunk in deeper for me this time around. You describing it as an achievement for humanity maybe is what did it.
You also talked about Erik Erikson which resonated partly because I have picked up some of his work previously and have also been interested in it. For me it is an extension/companion of Maslow's needs hierarchy. I guess I like to categorize things. More personally, the ideas around the fundamental aspect of mistrust vs trust, or fear vs love, kind of hit home for me.