Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

How do you handle fear?

Years ago in talking to a psychologist he said-- it's only paranoia if it it's not a real possibility. Much of what we as a culture are being taught to fear very much could happen. We are bombarded with it by politicians and the media which both try to profit whenever disasters strike. How do we handle the fear when some of it could happen?

The cartoon offers one possibility. Stop being informed. I don't recommend total isolation but rather just stay off the cable or TV news where hysteria seems more catching. If you read the newspapers, you get the gist of what's going on but without all the extras. Just the facts, ma'am, is a good approach right now.

With so many things to fear, those who love to live with drama, have their choice. Global warming, terrorism, Ebola, right wing, left wing, random violence, targeted violence, cancer, heart disease, and the list goes on. You can change the words, but we constantly see the same terrors suggested.

Where it comes to the newest, Ebola, how fearful should we be? It is not to say that humankind has not endured plagues that nearly wiped us out. The Black Death, a European pandemic at its worst in 1346-53, killed an estimated 75 to 200 million people. 

Cholera became a dread scourge at various times especially with the pioneers heading west in the United States. With no clue what caused these diseases, there were no cures or treatments and like smallpox, a lot died. 

When my mother was a girl, in 1918, a flu pandemic killed as many as 50 million worldwide. It was one that hit my family when my grandmother's beloved brother died from it (he was at the age that was most deadly). My mother and her two sisters got dreadfully ill also but all survived. Pandemics were to be feared, and then came polio which left many parents in terror each summer. My husband's aunt had that, recovered but had a limp for the rest of her life.

So now new dread diseases come along and we don't know what to think. Will a shot be developed to prevent it? Likely it will but when? Antibiotics don't do anything for Ebola, but there may be an answer from science. In the meantime, we can be cautious, not think about it, or let ourselves be terrorized.

The thing is fear isn't of something real at the time it's felt. It is a possibility. It is is False Expectations Appearing Real. Except they might become real and that's what worries us. Often, by the time someone is my age, it's not so much for us but for our offspring, their offspring and young ones anywhere. 

Some turn to religion as a way to find peace when the world has so many possible dangers. The problem with religion for me is using logic because it is faith based. Time and again we hear of a tornado where some claim they were saved by God and prayer-- but others died. The ones who claim religion as an answer will say-- that then was God's will-- which pretty well means they are getting no real benefit in terms of insurance policies.

Others count on guns right up until the problem is a neighbor who gets deathly ill, who you were with and find out their illness was easily caught. It's not like a gun can fight a disease or really even random violence. Let's face it, if a bad guy is out to get you, you only know it when he attacks first. If it's a bomb, you never know it.

I try to be especially effective in not letting fear run my life because when I write books, like the one I am writing now, I get inside my hero and heroine to feel what they feel and in a story like this fourth Oregon historical, they are both doing something very dangerous. She is a Pinkerton and he's a cavalry officer. Both are warriors (she is my first warrior heroine). So to write who my characters are, I take on their fear or imagine the risk they face. It is what writing any kind of fiction is all about. So I get stressed with something that is not mine. I have to be afraid when they are to get the words right, but I cannot forget from where that emotion came and take it with me when I leave the story. Then I'd have an unfounded fear to carry around and it'd be a burden I don't need.

It is one of those things you do if you write fiction-- take on real emotions but they are not yours. I then even dream about these situations, sometimes as though I am writing the story and then seeing it didn't work. Sometimes seeing it acted out. When I dream of it, which doesn't happen with editing but does with creative writing, I know I am taking it inside. 

To me the best protection from FEAR is being aware from where it's coming and then doing whatever can realistically be done about it before letting it go and forgetting it. Being afraid ramps up the adrenalin. Fear might do the same but the adrenalin serves no purpose except to burden your organs. I have a few ideas I use:

Be aware but not beyond where I can make a difference.
Do what I can do.
Practice being where I am without projecting.
Exercise when feeling stressed.
Get out in nature, hug a tree -- no kidding, hug or sit under it because trees have great vibrations (don't do this during a windstorm though).
Remember beautiful times in my life.
Remind myself of what is within my circle of control
Avoid spending too much time knowing about what I can't impact-- as a writer, I go a little farther out there than others might need to do.
Distract myself with reading, watching comedies, silly adventure shows-- no horror at all for me.
Stay away from hysteria mongers.
And finally relax about it. What will be will be. 

Any further tips that you can share? We are in a time where fear is being promoted from all directions. It's easy to see why some want to dig a hole and pull it in over themselves!


Celia said...

Second try! I'm having trouble with my computer tossing me out of what I'm doing, and if I'm writing my train of thought crashes as well. This will be shorter because I can't recall all of the pithy tome I was composing. ;-)

Your cartoon is my first line of defense for the boogeyman news. I put myself on a news fast from time to time when I get to wrapped up in it. When I start dreaming about it I know it's time to back off.

Fear, stress, aggravation? I also walk, in the trees by the river if possible. Talk to my family, and try to be kind to others to put back some positive into the mix. I read, and I have a collection of DVD's that distract me enough to change my outlook, some funny, some sweet, and many fantastic. It protects my psyche from the Chicken Little news.

Ingineer66 said...

Good post Rain. I am not sure if you get "just the facts" from the newspaper, but I understand your point. You don't get nearly as much hype and that seems to be out of control in most TV news these days.

When my father was in high school, he contracted what luckily turned out to be a very mild case of polio. He had no visible after affects. But while he was in the hospital the county health department came to his house and drug his bed outside and burned it. Could you imagine that today? People would be suing over invasion of privacy or some such BS. We need a little more leadership from our government and it little less touchy feely, feel goodness.

Your tree hugging comment about the wind storm made me laugh. I don't think I would ever actually hug a tree, but being outdoors in the midst of trees is definitely good for the soul.

robin andrea said...

Roger's maternal grandmother lost two of her sisters to the flu epidemic in 1918. I was just thinking about that the other day and so googled around to see what the headlines looked like in the newspapers at that time. It's interesting that, according to wikipedia, the world lost 3%-5% of its population to the flu. I couldn't tell from the photos of headlines if there was a lot of fear mongering back then. It would be interesting to read the articles to see if such a terrible illness was being used as a political tool. Fear is an interesting thing.

Rain Trueax said...

Yes, fear is very visceral. I have heard it said that being afraid is a good thing. Goads us to action. Fear though paralyzes us or makes us act in ways that are detrimental to our own good. We see that a lot in politics ;)