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thoughts from Rick Hanson

Posted: October 6th, 2010, 9:49 am
by Moreconnections
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have dueling rallies in DC coming soon. Stewart's is "Rally to Restore Sanity" and Colbert's is "March to Keep Fear Alive!"

Obviously, Colbert is a great satirist who is poking fun here, since we sure don't need a rally to keep fear alive. Alarming messages are all around us, like the news about global warming or the "Threat Level Orange" announcements every few minutes in the airport.

Some of those messages are true and worth heeding. For example, dumping carbon into the atmosphere must inevitably make the planet hotter; it's basic physics.

But others are wildly exaggerated: the actual odds of a bad event on your airplane flight are "Threat Level Chartreuse" -- a bucket of green paint with a drop of yellow.

How do we tell the difference between real threats and bogus ones? (This is important for many reasons; for one, chasing fake threats takes away resources from real issues.)

But it's tough to do, since evolution has given us a brain with what scientists call a "negativity bias" that makes it prone to feeling threatened. This bias developed because the ancient mammals, primates, and early humans that were all mellow and fearless did not notice the shadow overhead or slither nearby that CHOMP! killed them. The ones that survived to pass on their genes were nervous and cranky, and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain, armed with nuclear weapons.

Stephen Colbert, relax: Mother Nature is on your side, already working hard to keep fear alive.

Your brain is continually looking for bad news. As soon as it finds some, it fixates on it with tunnel vision, fast-tracks it into memory storage, and then reactivates it at the least hint of anything even vaguely similar. But good news gets a kind of neural shrug: "uh, whatever."

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.

All this makes human beings super-sensitive to apparent threats. Basically, in evolution, there are two kinds of mistakes: (1) You think there is a tiger in the bushes but there isn't one, and (2) You think the coast is clear, no tiger in the bushes, but there really is one about to pounce.

These mistakes have very different consequences. The first one will make you anxious, but the second one will kill you. That's why Mother Nature wants you to make the first mistake a thousand times over in order to avoid making the second mistake even once.

This hard-wired tendency toward fear affects individuals, groups (from couples to multinational corporations), and nations. It makes them overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities, and underestimate resources.

Of course we need to deal with real tigers, real threats, ranging from leaky roofs to the shaky economy, national debt, terrorism, and global warming. But "keeping fear alive" for tigers that are nonexistent, manageably small, or made out of paper has huge costs.

At the personal level, fear feels bad, wears down physical and mental health, and makes people duck for cover in life and play small. (These individual costs also drag down the economy.)

Nationally, feeling threatened gets intensified by the classic drumbeat of alarms about inner and outer enemies from people who are good at trumping hope with fear. The result? Paper tiger paranoia - which makes us over-invest in threat protection, under-invest in infrastructure, miss real tigers because we're flooded with warnings about illusory or exaggerated ones, and over-react in ways that create new real tigers (like America's longest war, in Iraq).

The solution? It's to have the courage to see real tigers clearly and to deal with them effectively - and to refuse to be frightened and cowed by boys and girls crying tiger.

It also helps to get more skillful with your own brain: to understand how it makes you needlessly afraid, whether you're talking with a family member, doing a project at work, or watching the news - and most importantly, what you can do about that by using your mind alone to change your brain for the better.

Which is what I'll be exploring in my upcoming posts, including how to calm down threat reactivity, feel stronger and safer, recognize both real tigers and paper ones, and realize that in most situations most of the time, it is not "Threat Level Orange."

Meanwhile, let's not do anything more to keep fear alive. Mother Nature and Fox News are already doing a very good job there. Instead, let's do more to keep courage alive.

A great first step is to laugh at paper tigers.

Rick is the author of

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

(Author), Richard Mendius (Collaborator)

Re: thoughts from Rick Hanson

Posted: October 6th, 2010, 11:55 am
by mindchild
Great post! One of the very reasons I have stopped watching the news. I am aware there are many conflicts/crisises going on in the world and I pray for peace every day, but I have no need to get caught up in the details anymore.

Lisa :)

Re: thoughts from Rick Hanson

Posted: October 7th, 2010, 1:36 am
by Moreconnections
Hi Lisa,

I believe Rick was treating our fears as something that is in many ways hardwired into us. A survival way of being that is primarily instinctual. From a fear based reality people do all sorts of things many of which are violence related.

Understanding why people do what they do is more powerful than avoiding it. Sending and Being a calming Peaceful energy affects our collective experience.

I wonder how long these buzzing flies of distraction will choose to play on this board? Normally I've found paying them no attention works best as they'll get bored and go somewhere else......

Peace with Love,

Re: thoughts from Rick Hanson

Posted: October 7th, 2010, 4:41 am
by mindchild
I think those are "spam" type posts that are computer generated. I am not familiar with the technical aspects of message boards but I think there is a way Neale can keep that from happening. I am not sure Neale has checked back to this site.
Back to the original post:

I completely understand Rick's "hardwired fear" belief. I do try to stay mindful of not being caught up in the whirlwind of global fear my mother projects to me on a daily basis. She almost delights in telling me the dramas of the day and what new thing is going to kill us all! I send peace to her every day in my meditations and I am confident it is working. At the very least I think she is starting to sense my indifference to getting caught up in the fear mongering and has slowed down her enthusiasm with telling me.

I am really enjoying this forum. My wish is for more people to get involved in the discussions!

Lisa <3

Re: thoughts from Rick Hanson

Posted: October 7th, 2010, 6:03 am
by Moreconnections
Hi Lisa,

I too am not aware of the technical aspects of how a board works. I'm not really familiar about what my own computer can do even after owning it for almost 7 years......LOL

Have a feeling Neale may have simply started this site to see what is out there thought wise and may at some future point check on what's been shared. That is, if he doesn't forget he started this.....Ha-Ha

I have a close friend who thrives on dramas. He wanted to run for Congress to right the "wrongs". He knows the concept and generally agrees with it that there are no real wrongs but he Loves making such things real. When he gets on a roll about pointing out the wrongness of this or that I mention to him such thoughts point to some anger he has. He completely denies he's angry.

For quite sometime he tried to get me as fearful and angry as he is about what's going on. I told him repeatedly I won't play that particular game. I suspect that is like what's going on with your Mom. You are not giving her the feedback she wishes you would. Many people are unaware that their anger is simply masking a fear they have. And humans collectively are a fearful bunch......LOL

Thought too I have realized some who are into dramas are simply avoiding their own issues. It's always seemingly easier to moan about and judge what someone else is up to rather than look closely at who we are being. Avoidance and denial are two key elements of the ego.

As is said, "Build it and they will come." Others will drift here in time.

Peace with Love,