Veteran climate reporter, ABC’s Bill Blakemore, has written an interesting piece on embracing fear (5/6/12) and using it to mobilize climate action. In recent years, communication researchers have warned that “fear is not enough,” and may even be counterproductive if it causes people to tune out. This has encouraged many scientists and journalists — fearful of being branded “alarmist” — to temper their public statements, ignore “worst case” scenarios, soften the deep concern they express privately, or simply avoid public discussion of the issue altogether.
Now Blakemore suggests this attitude may be changing, and claims that fear can become your new best friend.
“Sometimes, the right metaphor can save your life.
“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way.
The monster is your fear in a sudden crisis — as when you find yourself trapped in a downed plane or a burning house.
If you freeze or panic — if you go into merely reactive “brainlock” — you’re lost.
But if your mind has been prepared in advance to recognize the psychological grip of fear, focus on it, and then transform its intense energy into action — sometimes even by changing it into anger — and by also engaging the thinking part of your brain to work the problem, your chances of survival go way up.”
Blakemore quotes a book on survival, by Ben Sherwood, where he found the phrase “Hug the Monster.”
“’For survival then, here’s the bottom line. If you’re scared out of your mind, try to remember this Air Force mantra: Hug The monster. Wrap your arms around fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack.’” . . .
Indeed, with enough hugs, you can even tame the beast and turn him into your best friend and most dependable ally.”
Blakemore sees people quietly applying this lesson to climate change,
Around the world, a growing number of people are showing signs of hugging the monster of what the world’s experts have plainly shown to be a great crisis facing us all.
Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization.”
. . .those who have also hugged this monster are finding that doing so transforms the crisis.
“Hug the Monster” comes from a chapter title in a book on survival by Ben Sherwood, former producer of ABC’s “Good Morning America” news show. After interviewing many survivors on GMA, Sherwood set out to understand why some people survive crises while others perish.
Here’s the full passage excerpted by Blakemore:
“Without a doubt, fear is the most ancient, efficient, and effective security system in the world. Over many thousands of years, our magnificently wired brains have sensed, reacted, and then acted upon every imaginable threat. Practically speaking, when you manage fear, your chances improve in almost every situation. But if your alarms go haywire, your odds plummet. . .”
‘Survival is not about bravery and heroics,’ award-winning journalist Laurence Gonzales writes in his superb book Deep Survival. ‘Survivors aren’t fearless. They use fear: They turn it into anger and focus.’ The good news is that you can learn to subdue the monster and extinguish some of the clanging bells. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Indeed, with enough hugs, you can even tame the beast and turn him into your best friend and most dependable ally. . .”
“For survival then, here’s the bottom line. If you’re scared out of your mind, try to remember this Air Force mantra: Hug The monster. Wrap your arms around fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack.
The debate among communicators on how to manage to fear and despair — both privately and publicly — is sure to continue.
P.S. A couple of more quotes on overcoming fear, from “How To Overcome The Fear: 7 Lessons from the Greatest Of All Time“:
“It’s OK to get butterflies in your stomach; the key is to learn how to make them fly in formation.” -Georges St-Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion). . .
When you feel scared, take 3 deep breaths. As Fritz Pearl, founder of Gestalt therapy, tells us: “Fear is excitement without the breath”.