My hamster’s primary emotional driver is fear (“oh God here comes the hand again this is it HE’S GOING TO EAT ME oh he’s just going to pet me and give me treats”), and I’m not sure humans are any more evolved than that. Look at how the Republican Party has used it to great effect, convincing people that Mexicans and Muslims and women and queer people are going to steal their jobs and eat their cats and turn their children gay. People are scared that they’ll lose their jobs, get sick, that something will happen to their children, that that spider will bite them, that that colored person will mug them. Fear is everywhere you look. Hell, social media networks are practically powered by it.
Look no further than Hollywood for the perfect example. Right now, there are seven (7!) projects in development about Robin Hood. Is it because viewers are jonesing for men in green tights? No. It’s because executives are terrified because Marvel (and Warner Bros., less successfully so far) have a lock on the superheroes people have actually heard of, so they grasp for any name recognition they can find – and they’re afraid that the other studios will get there first, thus costing them their jobs. It’s the same reason remakes, sequels, and adaptations have always been the norm. Studios are scared to take a shot on anything original, but previously existing properties at least give them some reassurance. It’s worked before, why wouldn’t it work again? So instead of funding a bunch of inexpensive movies, they put all their eggs in one (extremely expensive) basket that they consider a safe bet. Frankly, it’s amazing anything ever gets made.
I’m no exception. I’ve lived most of my life governed by fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what other people think of me. I have dozens of projects filed away that will never see the light of day because I was (or still am) too scared to take a shot on them. I’ve brainstormed lots of ideas for podcasts, but I’ve never actually done any out of fear that no one would listen or it would somehow hurt my career if I talked negatively about movies. There are many occasions where I’ve been too scared to take the necessary steps to advance my career, when all it would have required was an email or a phone call.
It’s not something I’m proud of. It is, however, something I need to come to terms with. A pretty smart guy who put over 100,000 people in prison camps because people were scared that their eyes looked different once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. I think he was right about that (the fear thing, not the internment thing). Ultimately, the only way to get past that rodent state of mind is to acknowledge your fears – and do the right thing anyway.