What drives a person crazy

What do we learn from the corona fear?

With our plastic, lifelong learning brain, we first have to find out what is important in life. That is why we are and will remain seekers. But we can all too easily get lost in this search for a happy and meaningful life, as individuals as well as as a whole society. As soon as we begin to feel that we have gone astray, we get scared. And that's good. Fear is our most vigilant companion. It enables us to learn from mistakes. But what did the fear of the corona virus teach us?

Nobody likes to be scared. Fear makes us helpless, we feel paralyzed, our throats constrict, our hearts race, our knees start to tremble, our foreheads are cold in sweat. As if the thought of the unexpected and apparently unsolvable problem that is coming our way wasn't threatening enough, the whole body is now going crazy. This state of affairs cannot be endured for long, which is why everyone who is caught in the stranglehold of fear tries to get out of it as quickly as possible. However, the solutions found for this are not always sustainable in the long term.

The simplest strategies people use to cope with their fear can currently be observed particularly well in the form of the most frequent reactions to the corona pandemic: deny and suppress, monitor and control and, last but not least, look for culprits to find those responsible for the frightening events close. It is not this virus at all that scares us, but rather the idea that other people have of the danger it poses. When this corona crisis is over, we will have to jointly investigate the question of whether our fear was justified or whether it could only be so great because we scared each other.

Fear can be fueled

It is remarkable how well some people have learned to frighten other people in order to make them compliant. You don't have to have studied neurology or psychology to develop this ability. It is quite sufficient to observe carefully how people react to certain messages. Even the dumbest will then realize that every person who is told that something threatening is approaching them first checks whether this warning is justified. If this is too difficult or takes too long, his response to this warning will depend on whether he trusts the messenger of this message. That is why all fear makers try to create the most trustworthy impression possible.

If the addressee of your warnings takes the imminent threat seriously, they will quickly begin to weigh up whether they will be able to avert this threat. All fear makers know that too. The less skilful try the most obvious and simply inflate the threat they have announced so much and so long that their “victim” no longer sees the slightest chance of escaping it on their own. Then it is trapped and is ready to willingly accept the suggestions, offers and measures of the supposed savior from an emergency and to follow them without contradiction. The more insecure the addressees of these fear makers are and the more incompetent they feel, the easier it is for them to be put into a frightening state of their own helplessness by conjuring up horror scenarios.

That is why it is a very popular strategy of fear mongers to relieve their future “victims” of all problems beforehand, to move all difficulties aside, so that they have as little opportunity as possible to acquire the skills required to solve problems and cope with difficult situations .
The more unfit for life a person has become through all these support and assistance measures - also through the constant use of safety-suggesting devices and aids - the easier it is for them to be frightened by the announcement of an imminent threat. Such people are then ready to follow the countermeasures suggested by their “rescuers” - and also to obtain the recommended and necessary equipment.

Your own skills are not always sufficient to avert danger. If you cannot do it on your own, it is of great help if you can rely on the support of relatives and acquaintances, friends and other people in order to master a threatening situation together with them. Most fear makers also know very well how important this resource of coping with fear is for people who are in danger. Therefore, they try to loosen, possibly even cut, the bond that connects their victims with such other supportive people. The easiest way to do this is by sowing distrust and discord, by persuading them that everyone is their own smith for their own happiness and that selfishness, envy and greed are genetically inherent in all people. Those who are firmly convinced that they have to make ends meet on their own and that no one can trust anyone will then do everything to save their own life. The scare-maker is only too happy to tell him how best to do this.

The most perfidious strategy of frightening other people and getting them to do everything they are told and asked of them can only be mastered by particularly successful fear makers. To do this, they take advantage of a skill that is particularly pronounced in all those people who cannot be so easily made submissive through all of the strategies described so far. These are usually very responsible people who like to take care of other people and are ready to do everything possible so that those people who are close to them do not suffer any harm, do not endure pain or even have to die. That is why they can usually be made docile by hinting at them and, if that is not enough, by clearly pointing out that anyone who defies their instructions puts their loved ones in mortal danger.

Fear forces change

No other species is able to change its own living environment - and thus also the living environment of all other living beings - so much and to shape it according to its own ideas as we humans. And that is why the representatives of no other species are so forced to adapt again and again to the changes they have brought about in their own living environment. By changing anything in the world, we create incoherences. When they get strong enough, we get scared. And that accompanies us until we have found a solution that makes the resulting mess a little more coherent.

So far, most people all over the world have repeatedly sought these solutions in the outside world, i.e. in the living environment around them, and redesigned this world until it again better suited their needs and ideas. Inevitably, new incoherences have repeatedly arisen in other areas of their living environment. When they became sufficiently strong, they became afraid and began to look for more suitable solutions - again outside and again, creating changes there that they had not foreseen and which frightened them.

This look into our own development history makes it clear in a very clear way how humanity organizes itself as a living system and what steers this self-organization process again and again in a certain direction: The necessity resulting from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the necessity to maintain the Structure and function of a living system to minimize energy expenditure required. It increases when some things no longer fit together so well, and in order to reduce it again, a suitable solution has to be found to restore the lost coherence. It seems to have happened again and again since the beginning of human history. As an inevitable by-product of the constantly recurring fear and the coherence-creating solutions that were found again for it, something has emerged and continued to grow that was not even available at the beginning: knowledge, initially about the nature of the world, but then increasingly about ours own nature.

To this day, many people still do not realize how easily we can get lost in our search for ways out of fear and end up in fatal dead ends. The repeated attempt to make a situation that has become incoherent again a little more coherent inevitably leads to errors. When we finally realize this, and the idea of ​​our own infallibility is shaken, we become particularly scared. She then teaches us what we call humility. Also the willingness to learn from our mistakes from now on. Maybe then we are even ready to change ourselves. But the very idea of ​​giving up a coherent state that has finally been reached and felt to be at least somewhat appropriate, scares us. That's why we prefer to leave everything as it was, stick to our habits and try to stay the way we have become. But even that only works as long as the world in which we live does not begin to change too quickly or too much. Otherwise it will become increasingly uncomfortable sooner or later. We feel that it cannot go on like this, we try to make the world the way we knew it again, and we get scared when we begin to realize that we can no longer do it.

Fear leads to self-knowledge

The only solution left is your own change. And people can change, even very fundamentally, but only if they want to. And those who want to change their previous behavior will only do so if what awaits them afterwards corresponds better to their inner nature than what they have done so far. When it makes him feel more alive and happier than before. But how does someone find his way back to what corresponds better to his nature, where he finally experiences himself "in his element"? How does someone like that come into contact again with all the living parts and needs that he or she had so valiantly suppressed in order to function optimally and to be as successful as possible? This is not possible as long as a person is still quite successful with the behaviors they employ and the inner attitudes and attitudes on which they are based. In order to come into contact with oneself again, these patterns would have to be shaken, destabilized, i.e. brought into an incoherent state. Only then is there a chance that these patterns that determine your own thinking, feeling and acting will reorganize.

Moshe Feldenkrais already described this in the fifties for the rediscovery of natural movement patterns. Otto Scharmer calls it "presencing" in his U theory. And in biology this basic principle is called "dedifferentiation" for every new beginning and thus for every development process that starts again. A liver cell cannot be transformed into a lung cell by pushing or pulling. But it can be helped to transform itself back into a pluripotent stem cell through dedifferentiation. And under suitable conditions, it can then become a lung cell by "following its nature".

But what would be the appropriate »de-differentiation process« for people to awaken in them the desire to fundamentally change themselves and their previous life? They should have the opportunity to come into contact again with their originally developed, but then increasingly suppressed, split off and repressed parts and needs by them and in themselves. With their originally once existing joy of discovery, for example. Or with their passion for design, with their sensuality, their openness and their empathy, also with their need to take care of something and to take responsibility for something. What then happens to them and within them, how they are on the move from now on, what they will do and, above all, what they will not do in the future, is something completely different from what we so lightly call "change". It's a transformation. We can change buildings and machines, but nothing that is alive. Because everything that lives can only change itself by changing.

We would not have come to this conclusion either, if fear had not repeatedly forced us to look for even more suitable solutions to restore a coherent state of affairs. It is remarkable how we have inevitably and ultimately arrived at ourselves and our own self-image in this search that has lasted for thousands of years. "Nature cannot be changed except that one obeys it," wrote Gregory Bateson in our studbook. But only someone can submit to nature who not only understands himself as part of this nature, but also experiences himself as part of it. Whoever succeeds in doing this will from then on live in harmony, in coherence with nature, including his own. He will be happy that it cannot be controlled, he will marvel at the diversity of natural forms of life and gratefully accept the unpredictability of life. To no longer have to constantly, but to finally be allowed, is the basic feeling of freedom. We also owe this important insight to fear.

Gerald Hüther

In September Gerald Huether's new book “Ways out of fear. About the art of accepting the unpredictability of life «.


This article by Gerald Hüther is in the »Neustart« issue of the magazine »wege. Das Magazin zum Leben «appeared.