Fear Is a Strange Thing

by Mar 25, 2020

I have been quiet on the blog front for a while.  I think that the world could use a bit of positive direction, so I will do my best to contribute in that vein.  Lets start with a view of the moments that we are all stuck in right now…

Our world is pretty well turned upside down at the moment.  Personal lives, work lives, everything… an uncertain jumble of stuff with a lot of unknown, all caused by this nasty thing call COVID-19.  A trip to the grocery store yesterday showed the impact of fear.  No eggs, no milk, very little meat, not a frozen pizza in sight.  A huge empty section of the freezer row was once full of frozen vegetables.  I heard a comment from one of the folks in the cheese section, where I got the last two packages of sliced cheese that I was looking for, make an interesting observation.  He said that if Stephen King (famed author of many wierd horror stories) were to create a grocery store it would look like this.  This is a big mainstream grocery store, not some local corner market, and it looked like it had been ransacked. And surprisingly people were still calmly shopping around, willingly substituting what was on the shelf for what they really wanted.  I did pick up 4 more cans of chili with beans than I had intended to purchase…. Just in case!

I happen to know the manager at this store and I ran into him as I shopped.  He told me that this panic buying had been going on for several days now, but they would stock back up overnight and have everything back on the shelf at 5:00am when they opened back up.  Not sure I will get up at 5:00 just to get the eggs I was looking for, think I will just do without until things normalize. 

The catalyst of all this panic buying and panic thinking is fear, and that is a very powerful emotion.

It is a result of the very first section of the brain that ALL inputs go through.  The amygdala is the input section into the brain where every single input must pass before processing elsewhere.  The amygdala is often called the “lizard brain” as it is the most primeval part of our processing.  Here every input is judged.  With one of three states (flight, fight, freeze) possibly happening it is here that our caveman instincts were honed that kept us from becoming someone/something’s dinner.  The amygdala acts on our behalf even today to judge input and decide quickly if it is time to run like the wind, put up a big fight, or perhaps freeze in place hoping to not be noticed.

Nearly two decades ago we learned about that same topic from our friend Tom Freese (author of Question Based Selling).  His teaching was that people will work harder, do more, in fear of pain than they will do to positively achieve something good.  His framing of that was “running away from German Shepards” vs running towards “gold medals”.

Fear is a strange thing… all this said, what I want to lead to is that while fear is strong, it is still our CHOICE as to how we respond to it.  Without the concern for being eaten as a meal from caveman days, the fight/flight/freeze element can still be tempered by the logical part of the rest of our brain.  So, what I am striving to bring to the surface is that it IS our logical part of the brain that can overcome all else and it CAN become the largest voice, and we ARE able to choose our reaction to everything around us. It is eventually YOUR choice.  Not always easy, I know.  Bravery can be defined as facing directly into your fears and still taking strong positive action.  You choose!

My challenge to you in these difficult days.  Take time to show more than the normal amount of compassion.  Take time to listen closely to those around you and understand their fears.  Take time to find unique ways to serve one another in every way you can.  Take time… to do what you know needs to be done.  One of the best antidotes to fear is to find someone new to serve.  Get up, find someone that has a need, help them, however you can.  In fact, take the bigger challenge, find someone new to serve EVERY DAY!

Stay well!

Mitch

p.s. the grocery store was much better stocked today.