What are you afraid of? - It’s time for enlightenment 2.0
We all have to deal with anxiety or fear at some point. But what are we anxious about and are we actually aware that what we are experiencing is anxiety? If we worry about our beloved ones, our health, our prosperity or maybe even our culture, do we recognize this uncertain negative emotion as a kind of anxiety? I believe that we do not recognize it anymore. It may be whispering to us but we do not look at it. All that remains is a negative feeling of uncertainty, of unhappiness. In my opinion, this is where one of our lives’ central problems begins: we misunderstand anxiety.
Anxiety conveys an uncertain feeling about potential future developments. Its formulation is sharp and the anticipated results are disastrous. Therefore, when we are anxious, we conjure a future worst-case scenario. In our imagination, we turn negative fiction into reality. As a result, we turn fears and anxieties from informants into rulers – and that is dangerous.
Fear and anxiety are important for our development. However, they do not define facts, they are just informants. When we experience anxiety*, this feeling urges us to take a closer look, to go deeper, because the actual problem hides behind it. Anxiety itself is just the sign board.
But who of us takes the time and looks behind specific anxieties and fears? Today, we consider anxiety to be more of a need that has to be met. We, as a consumer society, have learned to do that very well. And it seems that we mostly satisfy this need by following or trusting those people or media who address this feeling in the loudest way. These people warn us about a future threat, they formulate sharply and talk about disastrous consequences. This is how they combine their form of communication directly with our anxieties and fears. These people know what they are doing and they count on the results of their actions. Even though they promise to take your anxieties away, they only provoke, because anxiety does not go away in this context. Quite the opposite happens; it is nurtured, it grows and is joined by another feeling – hatred. However, this hatred needs a direction, a target toward which it can be discharged. These people choose a specific, powerless group as their target – a minority, for example. They declare this group to be evil. This is how a circle of fear, hatred, and in most cases, violence starts.
Thresholds of humaneness are overstepped consistently until they vanish entirely and make the previously unthinkable possible. The price of power is determined. These people only want one thing: they want power, they want to reign and rule us with fear. They fear one risk – that we utilize the basic function of fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety urge us to take a closer look, to scrutinize, and provide clarification based on facts. This is exactly what these power-obsessed people want to prevent: us taking a look at what lies behind. This means that they have to control information, change or obliterate facts, while media and people who ask critical questions are discredited or silenced.
But how do we get out of this? I think that one part of the solution is the idea of enlightenment. This is a movement that has been around for more than 200 years. In 1784, Immanuel Kant explained it in the magazine “Berlinische Monatsschrift” as follows: Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. “Sapere aude! (Dare to know!) Have courage to use your own understanding without direction from another!”
This is exactly what we have to do now. It is time to not just consume our lives; it is time for our individual maturity.
- Accept that life is change. Be hopeful, courageous, and open to new things.
- Recognize your anxieties based on the following criteria: future, sharp, and disastrous.
- Face your fears and anxieties and solve the underlying problems.
- Be a good fact-checker and check your sources of information carefully.
- Choose and trust people who give hope with clarity and vision.
Even though we feel sometimes like we cannot change anything, we have to realize that we actually can – each one of us has to try, even if each one of us is just one voice of many millions. Coco Chanel once said, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Be courageous and ask yourself this question: “What do I fear?”
I chose the pictures of two young, Viennese designers for this blog post because I consider them to be antidotes to anxiety behavior and appreciate them as courageous people with visions. We need more of them: T-shirt „The slow label“ by Anna Laura Kummer and hat „Nomade Modern“ by Nuriel and Audrey Molcho
*When I talk about fear and anxiety in this article, I mean everyday fears and anxieties and not pathological anxiety, anxiety disorders, or acute anxiety behavior.
Photos by Markus Kufner