Fear, Courage and New Paradigms

Failure is an extremely important tool and, if handled properly, improves our emotional, mental and spiritual hygiene. Everyone needs to wash up, take a shower and pick up around the house periodically. Removing the dirt and debris of life freshens things up and makes us more wholesome. Taking the time to release unproductive habits, poor attitudes and immature beliefs that fail to support our highest interest rejuvenates. This pandemic creates fear, anger and hopefully the courage to create a new paradigm. This article takes concepts from my book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) and applies them to our national Covid-19 response.

Fear of failure can motivate us to change in a positive way, so it is also a necessary ally. The willingness to admit or recognize a problem, take responsibility and make corrections requires courage. The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz provided a wonderful example of how confusing and chaotic emotions can be. Considered the king of beasts by others, the lion assumed his fears made him inadequate. Unaware that courage is the willingness to act in the face of fear, he bullied others in a misguided attempt to mask his fears. Does this pattern remind you of anyone? Confusion continues for many around our country just like it did for the Cowardly Lion who failed to consider that fear activates not only our illusions…but also its opposite, courage.

Cowards fail to develop the courage it takes to express a motivating form of anger that overcomes fear. Conquering an adversary or a bad habit takes dedication, focus and drive. Determination and willpower are positive forms of aggression that are necessary for survival in a competitive world with limited resources. Success, breaking barriers, or challenging the status quo requires courage and healthy forms of aggression. Self- control, fearlessness and personal power are necessary to achieve an athletic or artistic accomplishment…or a Covid-19 free country for that matter. Anger in its empowered form is a comrade that will fight for your life and help you overcome any adversary or adversity.

Suffering points to our imbalances, while anger can be used as an excellent indicator or a warning signal to point out failed behaviors and unmet needs. A newborn shows an endearing form of anger by turning red in the face and screaming till the infant stops breathing. All this is due to a failure of a caretaker to address a primary need— whether food, being burped, comforted or changed. That courageous temper tantrum gets his or her needs met. The newborn takes control of his/her environment and other people through anger as a form of communication. Birthed from fear and failure, courage and aggressive strategies are effective for success and survival. As adults though, unmonitored infantile anger can corrupt a worthwhile goal. Due to its quick, mercurial, and lethal nature, expressing unmitigated anger fails miserably as a long-term means to get our needs met. 

Take Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK for example, who initially blocked efforts to implement necessary Covid-19 protocols used by every successful country with low pandemic related death rates around the world. Then Boris contracted it and almost died. Admitting his mistake, he possessed the courage to create a new Covid-19 paradigm in the UK. In the US, we see a failed effort to cling onto an old, cherished way of life by misguided politicians and conservatives as death rates soar. We have no national strategy unlike every successful country in the world. The challenge before our leaders and each and every one of us is as follows: 

  • Like it or not…Covid-19 engenders fear. 
  • Will I cling onto a cherished way of life that isn’t working?
  • Do I bully, embrace victim-consciousness or deny reality?
  • Or, do I have the courage to create a new paradigm? 

Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, England, UK – October 10th 2020: Scarecrow depicting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson conducting a news conference during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic

Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Successful people and even animal species adapt to sifting circumstances. Failure creates fear. Fear can lead to denial, dissociation and bullying, like the Cowardly Lion demonstrated in the Wizard of Oz. Hasn’t some of the political rhetoric you hear by some of our leaders sound like fairy tale fantasies? It’s time for the US to admit to our pandemic mistakes and muster the courage to unite and create a new paradigm. We need swallow our pride like Boris Johnson did and do what is best for the good of everyone. This pandemic has revealed a deeply imbedded narcissism in our country that needs to be examined. The challenge before us is clear. We need to join forces with the rest of the world, which happens to have a better paradigm. Any plan, which is designed to help the greater good for every soul will always have the best chance for success.

December 2020 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Zoom, Skype, or telephonic services are offered.  Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.