Laurens Rademakers


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How to get rid of fear?

I'm not talking about phobias or individuals' fears. I'm talking about a society that has elevated fear as one of its prime guiding principles.

In the West, subjects are controlled by an unending stream of messages that induce fear - by a politics of fear. This turns us into weak, unfree, easily controllable slaves who kill their creative potential:

-you have to eat and be healthy, be scared of unhealthy food and health risks everywhere
-you have to fear foreigners
-you have to fear economic collapse, so give in to social injustice, it's for your own good (e.g. productivity went up 80% in the U.S. since 1973, whereas wages only went up 39%)
-fear your neighbor
-fear technology and science
-fear climate change (even though it may be real)

How can we beat this dreadful politics of fear? Do we even have to? Or maybe this societal fear is useful? (It makes us productive and obedient slaves - which is good?)

Can and do we have to liberate ourselves? And how do we go about?

  • May 8 2012: Can and do we have to liberate ourselves?
    Yes We can.. In order to liberate ourselves from that dreadful feeling; Yes We have to.

    Fear is like a secondary effect of the inability to learn, and our inability to learn is because of fear. it's like a loop but it can be stopped. We have a choice on that.
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      May 8 2012: agree completely yuri.

      how do we encourage others to seek step outside of fear?

      How do we grow the courage and wisdom in oursleves to do that?
      • May 8 2012: Lindsay,

        I see it this way!
        Some people have realized that fear is a dreadful feeling, but they are doing nothing about it. here fear has become part of life that seems impossible to detach from.
        Some others are looking a solution for it.

        "be the change you want to see in the world" is enough to show others and to oneself that there exist other choices out there, that fear has not useful purpose. it's like a seed for change.. that's what I learned :>

        usually fear is related with "something bad can happen", yes it could, but it could also not. the fear I mean here is when at the moment of thinking on "something bad can happen" is triggered instantaneously a dreadful feeling, that keeps us in the loop.

        As kindly Coleen wrote above: Awareness is the first step toward change that way We will realize that being open to information is not as bad as it looks.
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          May 8 2012: Yes Yuri! Many times, when facing something new, we automatically assume that it is going to be "bad". I like what you say...."it's like a seed for change". I think/feel that fear gives us information we can use for change, either in ourselves as individuals, or as a global community:>)

          I totally agree kind, wise Yuri...."be the change you want to see in the world"...preferably with an open heart and mind:>)
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          May 8 2012: Funny, I just got a thumbs up for a comment on a closed discussion...
          "How do you overcome fear"
          Thanks for the thumbs up and reminder OM K:>)

          Colleen Steen
          Feb 22 2012: I agree Heather, that we can sometimes convince ourselves that what we are feeling is excitment, rather than fear! Change our thinking, we change our feelings, and it may change our life experience:>)

          When I started performing on stage professionally, I used to get wicked stage fright to the point of becoming physically ill. Once I was on stage and in character, it was totally gone, but before the performance started, it was horrible!

          A wonderful director advised me that fear/stage fright was simply an energy moving through the body, and with different thoughts, we could transform the energy into something more positive. So, rather than thinking I was going to make a mistake...forget my lines...songs...blocking...etc., which was taking me into stage fright/fear, I started changing my thoughts to..."I can't wait to get out there and do what we've been rehearsing...I'm ready...prepared...and I will do the best I can with enthusiasm. It only took a couple times of changing my thinking before the stage fright disappeared, and was replaced with excited enthusiasm. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful lesson from years ago:>)
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      May 8 2012: Great point Yuri!
      Fear can become a loop....a cycle... which creates, as Laurens says in the indroduction, a prime guiding principle in the life experience. The more we fear, the less willing we may be to open the heart and mind to information...the less information we have, the greater the fear.......and so it continues.........

      I agree that we can only liberate ourselves, and that is a choice we make in each and every moment. Awareness is the first step toward change. Another step may be in knowing that learning, and being open to information is really enjoyable. I would not deny myself that opportunity:>)
      • May 8 2012: "be the change you want to see in the world"...preferably with an open heart and mind
        Yes it works :D.. When we are open to listen, and willing to give a piece of us. much more is given back to us. then something changes.
        Now I feel that people's wise words find me instead. just remains to be thankful for.
  • May 4 2012: To get rid of such kind of fear, to talk and share idea with other people would be better.
    To clarify the important issues, it may be useful to know that kind of fear. It could be a chance to think about our future seriously. Luckily, we can know about global problems in any place and think about them with global citizens.
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      May 8 2012: Taketomo,

      Thank you for your wisdom on this.

      I too bleieve that the truth, actual facts, actual information and an opportunity to discuss that with others, including others who don't share our views is the way out of fear.That is the opprtunity we have here every day at Ted Conversations.

      Once actual indisputable facts are out we are invited to deliberation and discernment, if only to reconcile or realign what has been said with our ideology, beiefs, memes, opinions. And that little bit of light that shines through in that process of reconciliation opens the way out of fear and into being active, angaged alrert and aware citizens in a truly free society.
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    May 9 2012: Fear is the tool of too many groups for to long. From Church groups to Political Groups. We need to sit down and ask ourselves; What is someone gaining from me being afraid of this? We went from being afraid of terrorist groups abroad to home grown terrorists. Is just one example of this. I believe us speaking to each other online one on one and getting to really understand who is who and what they stand for is the only way. If we keep just believing every news piece we see we are in trouble.
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        May 9 2012: In the numbers we can win but only if we actually spread the real info. Look at all the new laws passed today that are actually harming us. The GMO agenda were it is proven to cause cancer in rats and third generation is usually unable to produce. Or that a grip load of children in India and Africa after receiving vaccines from The Gates Foundation are crippled in some way. By the way the Gates Foundation is using the same Polo Vaccine that is no longer allowed in America. And his CO2 theory is nut plants breath in CO2 we are not killing the Earth by breathing but Carbon taxes will make a few men very rich. Think about i they have figured out how to tax us for breathing. Now if you look at Mr Gates past he has always been a shady business person. Now he has the FDA pushing it so that the don't label food with GMO warning labels.
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    May 8 2012: Fear is an evolved emotion we all very much need. The problem is most organizations know if they can press that button they get better results. EG: Negative political ads. I fear (sorry) there is no way to get rid of fear mongering in a free society. Our best defense. Think.
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      May 8 2012: I am with you Brian right up to saying we can't get rid of it. I agree with YUri that it is within our power, each of us to change that.

      Truth and empowerment liberate us from fear and therefore from fear based manipulations. It takes only a tiny shift, a few moments of stepping outside ideology, memes and rank opinion. Once that first stream of light breaks through we begin to be free of fear and manipulation based on fear.

      Fear and manipulation are not a natural consequence of free socoety..quite the opposite .

      The preservation of freedom requires us to fearless, courageous, self reliant and self regereative. When we allow ourselves to live in fear we are throwing freedom away.
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      May 8 2012: I agree Brian, that fear is an emotion that can be used productively to learn and grow in ourselves. I suspect, if it was not of some use, we would not have the ability to fear. The body/mind is a very intricately assembled mechanism, and when we can understand how it all works (know thyself...."think", as you say) it is helpful:>)

      When we are ready, willing and able to think for ourselves, we break the cycle/loop of fear based life experience, and at that point, individuals, or groups of individuals who want to use fear to control, have no more power.

      You use the example of negative political ads, and I agree that they definitely influence people, otherwise they would not be using them any more. When more people are willing to "think" for themselves, and sift through information that is not helpful to the process, those ads will no longer have any power to control.

      I really believe that we are evolving to a point where humans are wanting to think and feel more for themselves, rather than be led by others who want to adversly manipulate and control:>)
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        May 10 2012: It looks to me that fear is a complex, evolved emotion that we also share with animals. Like the gazelle, our tribal ancestors had a healthy fear of big predators. They also had reasonable fear of running out of food, the tribe next door raiding their camp and falling off a ledge.
        These days we are well advised to think it through and control it where unneeded.
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          May 10 2012: Hi Brian,
          I think/feel that fear can be as complex, or as simple as we want it to be. Anything becomes more simple when we can understand it and the underlying causes...don't you think?

          I agree that there is an intuitive/instinctual fear, which alerts us to danger, as you've noted in your comment.

          Our ability, as humans, to think through our fears, offers us the opportunity to understand fear and use the information appropriately (meaning useful to ourselves and others).

          This evolved emotion, and the ability to think, often causes fear to become more complicated, don't you think? I believe we sometimes "think" more than necessary, and rather than reasonably, rationally sifting through information, the "thinking" can take us more into a spiral of fear.

          I actually find intuitive/instinctual fear to be more reliable than the fear that is produced by "thinking"...more healthy, as you say.
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    May 10 2012: I agree with every notion you just expressed Colleen. What is frightening (there's that fear again) is that my experience is telling me that we are (and must be) emotionally driven creatures. The neo-cortex is new (in evolutionary terms) but it appears to be our self awareness centre. Using it as I try to deal with the complexity of emotions (that just happen) is like bull riding.
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      May 11 2012: Dear Brian,
      I believe that some of us are emotionally driven creatures, some of us are logically driven creatures, and some of us have found the balance....just like what is needed for bull riding, and probably everything in our life experiences.....yes?
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    May 10 2012: I agree, the wrong kind of thinking can lead to terrible anxiety (fear). I also agree that fear of immediate physical threat is very helpful. Fear generated by those seeking to influence is awful because we are human, we can be pushed and they know it. I wish I could say I was immune but I don't think anyone is. We need to stay alert but being so can lead to fantastic humour.
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      May 10 2012: I also agree Brian, that too much thinking can sometimes lead to more anxiety, which is fear based. As humans, we certainly can be influenced by others, and I find that the more I know about myself and what I really care about, the less others can influence me to the point of control.

      I don't think/feel we ever actually become "immune", and from my own experience, I know we can get to the point where we can detach from external influences enough to be confident with our own choices regarding fear. Knowledge is power. The more we know about ourselves, and the issues we are dealing with, the more we are able to stay with what is real and important to us as individuals. What do you think about that?

      Sometimes, humor is a wonderful short circuit for fear!
      "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused".
  • May 9 2012: I will try to be more indepth about my answer of why I believe that courage is the way of dealing with all types of fear. Elements in society has and always will try to control the masses with fear. And it works. But the world changes and so do we. I admire the people who have the courage to share thier ideas, opinions and theories on this site for all to see and scrutinize. TED has the courage to allow people like me to convey our thoughts. For that I praise them.We all have courage inside of us, Along with our fears. The only way that in my opinion to overcome fear, my fear or societies fears is by confronting those fears with courage. We can make the world a little less fearfull and we have the tools to do it. But then again it still takes courage by one and all. Thank you and I hope I have been helpfull with my observations and opinions.
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      • May 9 2012: I had to think long and hard before I responded. I guess that myself along with a lot of other people would like the world to be a better place to live and prosper. But in reality it is in more danger than it ever has been since we came along. There are a lot things to fear today. All real and people doing really bad things to other people is only part of the equasion. There is plenty of ways for all of us to die. The key question is do we have enough courage to try to do some good in this world. You can bury your head in the sand and pretend everything will be alright or you can overcome your fears and have enough courage to at least try to make a difference. Here are your tools to use to accomplish this task: Your mind, your heart, your voice, your strength,your wisdom. The world wide web is also one of our best tools. I don't quite know if most everyone would like a utopian enviorment where everybody respected each other and their beliefs. Where we shared and cared for one another but I would be willing to give it a go. You can't stop evil, But you can choose not to tolerate it. But then again that takes courage. There is strenght in numbers.Thank you and I hope that I have been helpfull with my thougjts and opinions.
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    May 7 2012: Fear is a liar ( it said onn a poster that came to my Facebook today)

    Life begins where fear ends said its caption

    Fear is a useless and crippling is never a response or reaction that serves us or serves is aplace of vulnerability

    Fears cling to us when we cling to them
    • May 8 2012: "Life begins where fear ends"

      Sounds great and resonates with :
      " He who looses his life shall find it "
      Both tell the same story : life begins when EGO dies. Fear is the dearest ego child, for it is ego, that is always threatened always insecure. Get rid of ego and fear kiss you good bye :)

      Thanks, Lindsay !
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        May 8 2012: That's it exactly that expression..

        Fear is ego's child"


        Thank You.
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    Josh S

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    May 4 2012: Well i thought about your question and realized it was a 2-edged sword.
    Yes there is fear in our society, like the fear of economic collapse and a fear of climate change.

    But for almost all fears, there is an equal positive. Il give an example of the fear of eating healthy:
    There is a fear in that people say 'if you dont eat right you will : be obese, diabetes, cancer, early death, etc..
    However at the same time there is a positive. Those same people will offer benefits, incentives of eating healthy: 'you will be in shape, youll be attractive, you'll live longer.' At this point it is clear that there isnt just a 'politics of fear' but also a politics of benefits.

    I think that if you look at everything there are positives and benefits related to it. It just depends on how you look at it and your own mindset.
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    May 4 2012: Hi Laurens,
    I don't think we'll ever get rid of fear, and it's probably not a good idea to try to do that anyway. Fear serves a purpose, and when we can understand fear, it gives us information. To live in a state of fear, however, is not productive or enjoyable.

    I totally agree Laurens, that to accept the fear based information some folks are trying to give us, can cause us to become weak, controllable people. Fear and isolation are some of the underlying causes of abuse of human rights. If a person, or group of people can cause fear and isolation in another person or group of people, they often have control, and that is not good for individuals or for the global community.

    There are already some good ideas on the thread.....
    Be well Zdenek says...know about major developments but don't allow yourself to be bombarded with bad news all the time. Focus on some of the good things that are happening in our positive, information. Make good choices regarding magazines, tv, movies, etc.

    And...know thyself! When we understand some of the underlying causes of fear, we can use it as a valuable tool in the life experience. Fear cannot make us "productive and obedient slaves", unless we allow that to happen. As thinking, feeling adults, we have choices. We can use fear as motivation to learn, grow and take action toward change in ourselves, and together as a global community.
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    May 4 2012: Rational fear is not something you want to get rid of. Propaganda meant to produce fear is effective only on apathetic, uninformed people, which not all people in "the West" are. I say get rid of the ignorance and apathy in the West, and in Belgium too!
  • May 3 2012: One step to decrease your feeling of fear is to stop reading and watching typical news media because they intentionally select craziest stories, bad news and anything else that can scare us.

    Reporting bad news is done because we have need to be well inform so that we can avoid dangers in our environment. Unfortunately nowadays you don't need to know about all murders, rapes, political scandals or conflicts. One should know about major developments but not being bombarded with bad news.

    Second step is to avoid advertising. Typically advertising is trying to persuade us that we have a problem and the ad can solve it for us.

    Third encouraging people to watch positive and informative speeches at TED or elsewhere is a good way to go. Lets also connect people with their local community so that they can worry about how to help others rather than being busy with fears about themselves.

  • May 3 2012: Nice question. Answer is simple: No fear if you don't believe.

    When you believe the food as healthy food and eat, every article on that type of food creates fear in you. If you don't believe the food and think that every food creates some type of (minor or major) health problem for you, no fear of food. Because you are taking the food by knowing there is unknown risk. We know only few alphabets as vitamins. There are many more alphabets and symbols. So don't believe that some food is perfect for our imperfect body.

    When you believe you get high returns on your investment, fear starts from that day. No fear if you don't believe.

    When you believe foreigners or neighbours, you get fear of cheating. No fear if you don't believe.

    Why to fear technology or climate change? They are never same over a period of one year, over a period of a decade and over a period of a century.

    If you have fear of change, live one day at a time. There won't be major changes in a day everyday.
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      May 13 2012: Don,
      If you have a source where tension is defined as awareness and caring, perhaps you can post it? I just checked several sources, and I'm finding a similar definition to what I already quoted, with even more fear based meanings. God doesn't bring me to conversations...I bring myself:>)

      This is the debate, as you have guided it...tension is do we get rid of it?
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          May 13 2012: I answered the question several times Don, throughout this thread, as did many others.

          You state..."I have yet to see anything that sounds like a debate around the central question raised by Laurens".
          Did you look carefully through all the comments? I see lots of relevant information.

          You recently wrote a comment saying..."Without tension there is no story to learn from".
          So I'm adding the element of tension. How's it working for ya?

          You also stated..."I knew it would get your attention and that pleases me".
          Now that you have my attention, and I am providing you with tension, you tell me to "start your own argument, in your own conversation'!!!

          You still have not posted a definition that includes awareness and caring, so I don't think/feel that is a valid meaning for tension.

          Do you see any contradiction in your posts Don?
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      May 12 2012: Don,
      Absence of tension is a good thing. The topic discussion is "How to get rid of fear?" Tension is generally fear based, so I see no point in deliberately bringing tension into the conversation.

      Definition of tension:
      "The act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness; tautness; stress; pressure; inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indications of emotion; a state of latent hostility or opposition between individuals or groups".

      Personally, I don't see any reason whatever to bring tension to a conversation, and yes Don, there are plenty of stories and learning WITHOUT tension.

      Lack of disagreement does NOT "pretend all is well". Agreement is a foundation on which people can build, grow and evolve with the discussion. Try might like it!
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          May 12 2012: I didn't anticipate that you would agree Don because it is clear that you like tension (fear).

          I've read through all the comments on the thread, and I believe there is some very valuable information each his/her own! :>)
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    May 12 2012: Hi Colleen,
    I just tried to get verification about what drives us from research on a brain injured man who lost his emotions that I heard about. I googled around and I can't get a fix (maybe an urban myth?) but no doubt brain injury can change everything about personality. In short, I disagree that people are one way or another. I feel we are all both and more (I won't hazard). I agree with what is needed though, (yes, for most everything). Seek balance.
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      May 12 2012: I agree Brian, that we probably all have the ability to be emotionally driven, logically driven, and probably more. Some of us are right brain dominant, which may contribute to more emotionally driven, and some are left brain dominant, which may lead to being more logically driven. Fear, at various levels, seems to be experienced by all types, and apparently, we agree that balance is always good:>)
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    May 10 2012: Looking again I find I disagree with many parts of the intro. Fear is not a prime guiding principle anywhere in the West and most of those things society is supposedly saying we have to fear are positions held only by people on the extremes. Those people make interesting stories so they get media play. That is unfortunate but it does not mean I think they are endemic. My action: Call out the fear mongers, critically evaluate policy and support the best.
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  • May 8 2012: Dealing with fear,whether society or individual takes one thing and that is courage.
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    May 8 2012: Perhaps we confuse fear with phobias and manupilation. Leaders and politicians attempt to manupilate using an implied fear or phobia. Under my plan this would never happen to you (bad pictures that instil a fear) like it did under the guy in office now. We know the event happened and we know the other guy is in office therefore it all must be true. In the US we had a President who cheated on his wife (in the oval office), lied about it and showed no remorse. The reason I bring this up is that many of his party still believe he is honest, moral, and a role model. Why??? I have a theory that he is not the problem ... the people who elected him and ignore the facts are the problem. Most have sufficient education and the facts are available .... so how do you resolve this issue. Perhaps you can't. When society goes into a decay and begin to accept and believe even the most obvious of lies, improbable fears, and accepts immorality of the leaders it is a long way back to a moral society. Books, religion, and education are always the targets of anyone who wishes to dominate a society/country. In the true meaning " I FEAR " this. Best. Bob
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      May 8 2012: Adriaan,

      To avoid danger and take precautions I wouldn't call fear, good nor bad. To me fear has no real object then the thoughts or feelings we're subjected to.

      Fear mostly result from stories we;re told or tell ourselves.
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        • May 8 2012: Hi, Adriaan !
          " Without these basic fears, human society could not long exist."

          Just a little change makes this statement true to me :

          With these basic fears, human society can not exist any longer .
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          May 8 2012: Hi Adriaan,
          While I believe that fear gives us information, I do not agree that fear and anxiety are important to the well-being of human society in the way you describe. Wouldn't it be great if mankind (I assume you are talking about humankind?) could see the benefits of "order" without fear?

          So far, fear of pain and disease has not been a very successful force which compels many to care for their bodies...especially in western cultures:>(

          Fear of the law and penalties has not been very good about holding "floods of evil in check", and I don't percieve fear for reputation moving people to give up part of their life in service to others. The people I observe helping and serving others are doing it from love, rather than fear.

          I think/feel humans could exist quite well without living a life of fear, and personally, I love to see people helping neighbors because of the joy of helping the neighbor, rather than from a place of anxiety and fear.
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          May 8 2012: Hi Adriaan,
          My reply on your comment would be the exact same as Colleen's so I think love is the glue of mankind instead of fear.
          If you want crime to get down we have to care more.
          I don't know for sure but I think Swedenburgh will agree with me or I would much be disappointed.
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          May 9 2012: Dear Adriaan,
          You write..."I may have sounded too negative, sorry".
          Who are you saying "sorry" to? Yourself? Because it is your life, and the way you live it that you are talking about. If you are choosing to live a fear based life, it impacts you, and perhaps those around you.

          You write..."Seems to me the many regulations related to labels and listing of ingredients is all about fear and the preventing of pain and disease".

          I percieve the labeling on food items to be provided to give us information regarding what is in the product, so we can make informed choices. I don't percieve that as fear based.

          You write..."
          I can't help but wonder what would happen if all public cameras were turned off and the government closed its prisons".

          Adriaan, we've had a similar discussion before....about someone watching us, or cameras watching us.

          You apparently believe that people respond well to fear...if someone is watching us and there are ramifications, people will behave differently...better maybe? I do not agree that people respond well to fear based behaviors. Personally, I don't function well at all when someone tries to frighten me into submission, and I don't think most people do. Most people enjoy freedom of choice and the ability to make their own decisions without fear.

          I agree that we "discipline our children because we love them", and I do not agree with your way of disciplining, as you have suggested on other sites. You advocate telling a child "obey me or else". I don't agree with that practice Adriaan because it disempowers people, starting from the time they are children.

          Frans says..."If you want crime to get down we have to care more."
          No Adriaan...that does not mean 'Give a free loan to someone that wants to rob a bank"

          I believe, it means to empower people...genuinely care about people. You are absolutely right Adriaan... "It is never enough to just speak the words, "I love you, you are fine". It is important to be genuinely engaged without fear.
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    May 8 2012: The only thing to fear is death and anything unknown can be its messenger.
    The worst we can fear is fear itself for it prevents us from fully living and thereby from exploration and development.
    To understand that death isn't the end of our existence but a transition to new experiences kills all and every fear.
    To see this you need to trust life and see that time isn't real but only a way to measure movement.

    So more knowledge will diminish overall fear and so why education is important to fight it while educators have to educate themselves to the point where they understand that living beings aren’t mere machines but a living, loving force condensed into matter instead of matter that accidentally came alive.
  • May 5 2012: The debate on 'how to get rid of fear' could be a rather complex one, or it could be simple. We can get rid of damaging fear by embracing love - by that I am referring to teachings from the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi regarding world perspective (which I have still only poorly covered)
    As for the concept of constructive fear: I would argue that there is no constructive fear and it is a mistake to view any fear as constructive. Yes, indeed there is constructive mindfulness - though it need not come about from fear, nor is fear a required element in danger avoidance.

    I would like to see a society that could move beyond fear control tactics, that is where I may live next.
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      May 8 2012: Don. Wonderful quote!!!.

      and it is "we the people", each of us who have to refuse to live in fear.
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          May 8 2012: Don,

          My one sentence reply is right to the heart of what Eisntein is saying.. i often quote him myslelf and find he has great wisdom on civic matters and on spiritual matters.

          By "we the people" have to refuse to live in fear.. I mean exactly that that we canno let the propagandists and manipulators get away with it..we must not only shield oursleves from that by stepping out f fear and into life but "out" the evil doers as you say ( I don't use words like evil doers but we mean the same thing I think)

          In the past two or tgree months
          I have actually been experimenting with that here in Maine. I have started blogging every daily newspaper specifically with a view to naming and outing which bills are corporate influence from outside ( like ALEC) and which sentaors and legsilators are :carrying for the pluitonomy"..I do that not with opinion but with linnks to undsputable factual material..

          it has an amazing powerful effect creates a small shft that puts us all on common ground in understading what the truth is evenn if we might stll differ on what to do about it..and the process sets people to thinking idependently and evaluating what is happening instead of just being recative about it.

          Einsteins quote is about personal responsbility. It's about accepting that when anything terrible happens through the operations of law or government it happens with the consent of the goverened..we are responsible if we don't stand up to change it..

          You me and Einstein are on the same page on this, I am quite sure!!!