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Judith Barr Headshot

It Isn't Criminality. It's Fear!

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There's so much fear on our planet right now!

Fear about natural disasters ... earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes. Fear about man-made disasters both past and potential ... nuclear power, the collapse of infrastructure , a country's future held hostage, crashing economies, crashing families, increasing abuse out in the open ... rioting and destruction in major cities.

And people misnaming what is happening: "pure criminality." Many will go along with naming it that. But the truth is .... it's fear converted into anger and violence.

Because there is so much fear.

And no one is naming fear as the cause. Instead everyone's looking at the fear as the effect, the consequence. Yes, fear converted into anger and violence does create more fear, in a vicious cycle. But the root is the fear that people aren't naming or even feeling. The root is the fear that people are defending against with every defense they have ... including anger and violence.

Watch. It's 9/11. Everyone's afraid. Instead of feeling shock, grief, and fear, it is converted into anger, revenge, and violence acted out in -- and related to -- Iraq. For some it's very satisfying ... it keeps them from feeling their fear.

But then the soldiers, their families, and -- as they come home and people are faced with the consequences of their war traumas -- their communities, begin to experience their fear. And to hold their war terrors at bay, some veterans become abusive, depressed, or non-functional, causing fear in those around them.

Watch again. It's September 15, 2008. The stock market crashes 500 points. The effect on people's futures is huge. Rich, poor and in between are frightened. Anybody who ever had fear of not having enough -- and how many of us haven't -- are feeling that fear and thinking all the thoughts that go with that fear. Many react impulsively, hurting themselves or those around them ... causing more fear.

Not long after that, in December, we begin to see the revelation of those, like Bernie Madoff, who have been planning crooked responses to their own fears, although perhaps unconscious ones ... causing fear in those they cheat and steal from, fear that those people may never have thought they'd feel again.

Watch still another time. August 2011: our leaders are fighting, some to hold the country hostage to their goals; some for their goals, but even more so to keep the country from being held hostage. The fear is palpable. Probably unconsciously, the hostage takers, and hostage fighters, are acting from deep, perhaps even irrational, fear. And this eleventh hour stalemate, caused by fear, creates still more fear.

A few days after the country is pulled back from the brink, a group using inaccurate math and justifications they choose, create even more fear by downgrading the country's credit rating. Could this be an example of power used to create fear?

Then, the stock market crashes more than 500 points and fear spreads in waves. The waves calm, feed fear, calm, feed fear ... it's like riding a roller coaster ... one that isn't fun.

And through these last days, riots in England occur ... People destroying their own neighborhoods. And it's called "pure criminality." This isn't just "criminality!" This is fear feeding fear, feeding more fear, continuously feeding more fear.

Whether as leaders or citizens, if we misname the fear, we only end up feeding it and fanning the flames of that fear!

In my "Open Letter to Norway," I wrote about the crucial distinction between the here-and-now fear and the fear-from-long-ago. Although I won't go into the distinction right here, I am speaking about both kinds of fear now. Right now, the most important thing is that fear unnamed, felt and covered up, converted into something else, fear that we cannot feel and follow to healthy responses ... does nothing, can do nothing, and cannot ever do anything, but create more fear.

If you call it "pure criminality," call out thousands of policemen to return the violence, and do nothing to solve the deeper issue, you'll only continue to create more fear. If we're going to resolve this, we need to do something different. We need to respond to this fear with true compassion. We need to learn to feel, process, work with and through it, and respond to it in safe, sane, and healthy ways.

Are you going to create more fear? Or will you help to solve this vicious cycle of fear -- violence -- fear?

© Judith Barr, 2011