There is a force in the universe so powerful that it can stop even the strongest people in their tracks. Fear is the natural response of a person or an animal to a perceived threat. It is absolutely essential for survival. Fear can be overwhelming enough to make a person lose all sense of perspective. It can be used by others to control a person. It can, however, be used to motivate a person to take action that will lead to a higher standard of life.
When a person senses an impending threat to his or her safety, the fear response is activated. Also known as “fight-or-flight,” this natural mechanism can trigger response action or retreat. Often the action necessary to respond is something out of the ordinary for the person. The power of fear can be sufficient to move a person to bend or completely break his or her moral code. This is where the more nefarious potential of fear comes into play.
Those who seek power and influence are acutely aware that the strongest way to control someone is to use fear as a base and then set themselves up as the solution to the threat. This concept is a cornerstone of political campaigns. Every single political candidate will run on a platform that will point to a danger to the voters, exaggerate the danger and then set him or herself up as the one to quell the threat. A very similar tactic is also used heavily outside the political world.
Advertisers use fear to sell their products on a mass-scale. In the movie, “Roger Dodger,” the title character explains to his visiting nephew exactly what his job as an advertising copywriter entails. He describes it as making people feel bad about themselves. “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad,” he said. When pushed for an explanation, he continued:
“Because it’s a substitution game. You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives. Everyone’s missing something, right? Trust me. And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them your product is the only thing that can fill the void. So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they go out and buy a stupid looking pair of cargo pants.”
Knowing this psychology exists can help ordinary people to recognize when they are being manipulated and avoid becoming pawns in someone else’s game. One must always evaluate the message that is delivered by a politician, an advertiser or anyone else in a position of influence. The key questions to ask are: What are they saying? Do their statements have merit? What are they proposing as the solution? What are they asking for? This will allow a brief but sufficient examination.
Fear does not always have to be a negative – it can be used to give people a higher standard of life. As stated earlier fear is so powerful that it can cause people to take action that ordinarily they would never consider. If one can generate strong feelings of fear about living an unfulfilling life or missing out on his or her dream, it can prompt action that, under normal circumstances, would be inconceivable.
Life can be brutal and the odds of accomplishing one’s dreams are slim, leaving an opportunity for fear to be a positive force. If a person wants to start a business, but is afraid to take the massive action necessary, his or her dream may go unrealized. Regardless of how strong the desire burns, the fear will smother the flames. If, however, a person can instill and stoke the flames of fear that not going all-in and taking action to start the business will lead to an unfulfilled life of sadness and regret, it could motivate him or her to do it.
Fear can be used for positive or negative results, and figuring out which is intended is the key to success. If someone is fanning the flames of fear about a situation and setting themselves or their product up as the solution, a responsible person must be vigilant in researching the facts before committing to that person. The results of the action are also of vital importance. If the results will be the conquering of limiting beliefs and attainment of a higher standard of living, then by all means fear can be an asset. The trick is being able to recognize the difference.