Threat and the Overkill Response

Consider what we think of as reactions to threat – fight, flight, or freeze.  Now consider a word I think conveys a fourth option – “Overkill.” In bubble awareness, each of these implies an intention to remove a threat with an action. That action provides me a sense of control to mitigate the fear:

  1. Fight – intention to confront a threat.
  2. Flight – intention to escape a threat.
  3. Freeze – intention to avoid a threat.
  4. Overkill – intention to destroy a threat.

Each of the above appears totally justifiable by the one perceiving the threat in that moment. Not necessarily when viewed from outside that perception.

Let’s look at some examples of logic overkill. This represents an over- compensation response to threat. It appears reasonable from the perspective of the one applying the logic. Excessive from outside that perspective. From the overkill perspective, actions taken may not be or ever be enough, yet are totally justifiable. Remember, these are responses to fear:

  • Striking someone to get a point across.
  • If one piece of cake is good, two even better, then more…
  • If I go on a diet, I’ll have to starve.
  • I know I can’t make the rent this month, but I gotta buy this…
  • I’m not good enough, so this behavior tries to compensate for it.
  • Temper tantrums, bullying, showing off, bragging.
  • Winning an argument at any expense.
  • Gossip, spreading rumors, fault-finding, fear-mongering.
  • Flaunting wealth, education level, physical strength, social position, authority.
  • Hoarding.
  • Drug, child, animal abuse.
  • Murder, genocide, prejudice and bias.
  • Self-importance, self-deprivation.
  • Wishful and magical thinking.
  • Poverty consciousness.
  • Revenge, back-stabbing, and other passive aggressive behaviors.

When is enough enough? Timing plays a huge role in knowing when to stop.

How Fear Turns Appropriate Into Inappropriate Action.

My body has two action channels: sympathetic (GO!) and parasympathetic (WHOA!). I use a combination of the two in every perception and action I take. The balance I justify between GO and WHOA determines my judgment of the appropriateness of my actions. This is completely independent of facts, objective measurement, or rational thought.

What might happen when fear causes my GO-WHOA equation to jump into overdrive? At some point, enough GO or WHOA results in overkill. Where is that point? Personally, I’d not like to test that boundary. Instead, I’d rather stay far closer to the neutral balance point. Angry not to the point of enraged. Desirous not to the point of neediness or theft. Etc.

Social Overkill Algorithms

Agreement about a threat can foster swarm or mob mentality that can lead to overkill like genocide. Basically, add sufficient fear to the mix and just about any relationship can devolve into overkill behaviors.

Some computer hackers use social engineering to entice someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do – like click a dangerous link. Such social algorithms cause people to do hurtful things they would not ordinarily do. Add societal prejudices to the mix and the chemistry of mass fear will inevitably drive an excessive response.

Prejudice is an example of fear on automatic.

Sometimes that can lead to overkill – when societal fear rises to sufficient levels. One sees examples in the near-extermination of Native Americans in the 17th-19th Century and the Japanese-American internment program during WWII. Many examples exist that reveal the danger and damage of societal overkill.

On a personal level, this societal phenomena shows itself in my rage against opposing political personalities, parties and policies. At some point, I could be persuaded to take extreme action against them or their supporters – overkill.

That is, unless I use my language and/or emotional energy as a cue to question my beliefs. For example, I might think or say, “They always do that!” (referring to something I don’t like). I might question, “They?” and “Always?” That is, can I identify specific individuals or actions I don’t like? And, can I think of an exception to the “always” claim?

Questioning generalizations can sometimes stem the tide before it gets started. A simple question may be all it takes to avoid potential overkill. When enough isn’t enough, I might ask a useful question:

  1. What do I want?
  2. How can I get what I want?
  3. Why this in particular?
  4. Who am I?

A Message of Love from Fear

When I realized that I could direct fear like when using the right tool for the right job, I found myself in the Aha Zone. What now? How might I use fear to motivate me when love is what I want to feel all the time? I wonder, could fear be a message of love?

What If Fear Has a Message of Love?

An intention may seem the most difficult to achieve when fear is involved. Yet, what if the fear moves my intention towards completion?

My internal dialog about fear tends to act as a justifier of my perception of danger. When I accept this message as a stronger influence than reason or love, I become my greatest deterrent to success.

What might happen when I ask, “Where is this inner dialog taking me?” This would question my dialog in relation to the motivation. And strengthen my need to fulfill my intention. Until I understand fear as an emotion and motivator, I’ll have a misunderstanding that justifies my inner dialog about it.

I might ask myself, “who am I as a result of this inner dialog?” Now that is useful information!

I tend to feel fear when I perceive that I or someone I care about is in danger. One must care to feel fear. That’s a message of love!

Far from seeking to escape or avoid it, what if I embrace my fear as the symbol of love that it is? Fear helps me focus on what’s important, motivating me to act in order to express love.

What and How Questions Elicit Awareness of Love

The way you go about getting a need filled may be inspired by fear. Yet, feelings and the actions taken to satisfy those feelings are separate processes. That would include thoughts of what you need and how to get it.

When I ask myself a “What…?” question, I’m eliciting a response from an aspect of me that comprehends in symbols. Symbols bridge the relationship between material objects and abstract thought. This is how physical appearance connects to nonphysical meaning.

Unconscious use of fear includes justifying having to obey fear as a master. Using fear consciously includes questioning a need and its fulfillment in order to elicit awareness of its expression of love.

Overcoming Fear vs Embracing Fear

Let’s say you need something, yet, you’re afraid to go after it – like a raise at work. You feel fear along with the frustration of not getting a need met. You know fear will continue until you have achieved your goal. You choose to go for it anyway when the need for the goal exceeds the need to remain safe. Once the need has been fulfilled, you feel successful.

You’ve used the motivation derived from your fear as a tool to overcome the fear. At least that’s how it appears. And, as we’ve often seen in the Aha Zone, appearances can be deceiving. Instead of overcoming your fear, maybe you’ve acknowledged it as a tool to boost your ability to reach that goal. And in embracing your fear, maybe expressed your love for self and others.

“Why Am I Afraid?”

Because I care! And that is an expression of love!

Fear as Motivation for Consciously Directed Purpose

In my bubble of limited awareness, I’ve defined fear as an unfulfillable need to resist change. That because I add my interpretation of what I think fear should mean. Which is, a negative or unpleasant emotion I associate with what I don’t want. Fear is a feeling that motivates me to act on it. How I act on that feeling is what I interpret as fear – two separate things. Motivation is NOT the action in a consciously directed purpose.

Beyond that limited awareness I can interpret fear as one of many emotions that motivate me towards fulfillment. Since emotions drive my thoughts into action, I can choose to use them productively. Thus, a simple shift in my perspective of fear and can move towards change in powerful and meaningful ways.

When I think of fear as an emotion I can then choose to use it to serve my purposes. I can more easily meet change with confidence. As I let go of my need to resist change, I bring clarity to its benefits. I see change and fear as one and consider its uses as a conscious tool.

Motivation in Conscious Purpose

The body program associates fear from an instinctual perspective of fight, flight, or freeze – each an action. Even when I’m frozen in fear, there’s a strong sense of, “I’ve got to get out of here!” This results in a rush of chemicals I interpret as a feeling of exhilaration – a need for movement. That’s the chemistry of motivation. The question becomes, what do I do with this motivation?

The motivation to flee, fight, or freeze is an expression of feedback to my mind about my perceptions. That’s useful information towards an understanding of self. One such understanding is that of emotion as motivator.

As an emotion, fear bridges thought to action – motivation. What are some ways I can utilize this bridging characteristic of fear to apply conscious purpose to my intentions? Consider:

  • What if that bridge could motivate me to consider other ways to act?
  • Could fear be an agent of change I need for growth towards understanding?
  • Might fear be useful in accomplishing intentions?

I get to choose what to do with the energy of fear. I might go with the default – fight, flight, or freeze. Or, I may choose to direct that energy towards my conscious intentions – purpose!

Who’s Driving this Bus Anyway?

All emotion can be understood as motivation towards action. Key to this understanding is recognition that it’s NOT emotions that drive the directing aspect of thought.

Although fear may be the loudest voice at the table, it is not the only voice. Imagine a board of directors meeting in which the CEO presides. Mr. Fear says, “OMG! We’re going under fast! We have to do something drastic NOW to save the company!” Meanwhile, the other members of the board cannot compete with Mr. Fear’s passion, intensity, and volume level. If the CEO listens only to the loudest voice, what do you think will happen to the company?

The authority we give to fear is our belief that is is powerful enough to make us do what it wants, rather than what we want. However, passion, intensity, and volume are not direction! They are the fuel of motivation.

Fear provides motivation for change, and although it appears to be dictating my actions and thoughts, it does not. In reality, I do the directing. Like my car, the fuel does not provide the direction for the vehicle – the driver does.

Motivation, Considering Fear as a Tool

Fear may have gotten a bad rap in my limited awareness bubble. Consider how I’ve blamed fear for most experiences I’ve deemed negative. Perhaps perception of fear says more about what it represents about me than what it actually is.

Consider that fear is an emotion, and like other emotions, motivates thoughts into action. Fear doesn’t tell me specifically what and how to do things. Rather, the direction thought “chooses” to follow may be strictly determined by set programs. Fear simply serves to move the process along. Could I be using that motivation to validate my interpretations?

Like fire, when fear is recognized as a tool rather than a controller, its use could reveal a significant benefit. At some point in humanity’s distant past somebody realized they could control fire and, so turn a threat into a benefit. At that moment, my ancestors made a significant change to their fear equations regarding fire. They may have changed their entire world when they added fire to their tool set.

Fear as Motivation

Fear can drive personal change. Somebody moved fire from the realm of unconscious fear response to conscious respect for its power. On that day, humans realized they could turn their fear into a tool for conscious use.

Fear can be exhilarating. It can be funny, sublime, even entertaining. We use fear to moderate behavior for social purposes. Common fear can drive action towards solving vexing social problems like racism and political corruption.

Fear has its role in survival – perhaps the primary experience in life’s drama. Yet, fear doesn’t dictate how I should live, my interpretation does. Quality of life is up to the interpretations of the one living it.

Fear as Tool

When used as a conscious tool, fear can energize intention through emotion and interpretations of intention with powerful focus. That can then push me to overcome seemingly impossible odds.

“While fear can lead to less than ideal or optimal results in performance, it can also help propel athletes into some of their best performances.” (Cristerna 2014)

As desire represents an “attractive” force, fear represents a “repulsive” force of motivation. One might increase the probability of success by using both forces together to achieve a goal.

Maybe fear is another expression of love that can be used like other emotions as a tool to achieve an intended goal.
Perhaps fear, like fire, makes a dangerous, though useful, servant and a dreadful master.

Resources:
How Fear Can Help You Win, Learn to use Fear to your Advantage in Taekwondo, by Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHT, (Special Submission to USA Taekwondo).

The First Cause

Perhaps intention is a fundamental characteristic of consciousness and the first cause from which experience arises.

An intention is an awareness of separation from wholeness – “me” consciousness. The first intention I’m aware of is to be whole. This results in an awareness of lack. Thus, I generate intentions that limit awareness and codify them in instinct to support that first intention.

In limited awareness, intentions appear as problems seeking solutions.

Any intention includes consideration of one or more means to achieve its end. This acknowledges and defends a sense of separation and lack in the present moment.

Achievement of an intention ends that intention. Because of the underlying sense of lack, the end of one intention is part of another. This movement from intention to intention generates a sense of living moment-to-moment. Time reckoning.

The First Cause

My first cause is to live at the expense of my environment. Because I perceive myself as a separate being who must fight to survive, I experience this adversarial relationship with my environment.

Because I believe I own my own experience of living, I feel a need to protect it from the ever-present threat of lack. Therefore, I feel I must fight to achieve against the tsunami of lack waging war against me.

What if I question my causal intention to be whole? Might I expose an underlying paradox in which I apply a problem as a solution?

  • What does my intention to be whole presuppose? (lack!)
  • How am I satisfying that intention? (limited awareness!)
  • Why do I have this intention? (to experience limiting awareness!)
  • Who am I as a result of my intention? (fearful and defensive!)

My default is to believe I must fight and defend to achieve wholeness. How do I achieve wholeness without fighting for it? Maybe an investigation of my first cause is in order?

What if seeing my life as a problem to be solved is itself a problem to solve – that cannot be solved by solving the problem! I can’t solve a problem using the strategy that created the problem.

As long as I perceive my life as a problem, I can’t solve it!

What might happen when I stop the fight by releasing the sense of debt inherent in the first cause. That release might appear like surrender of the fear of death.

What might happen to me when I release my fear of death? Might I then realize the wholeness I already am and transition out of my bubble of limited awareness?

What if the solution to the problem I perceive is the realization that there never was a problem to solve? Perhaps the first cause is false.