The Most Misused Emotion – Fear

During witch-hunting, virtually all people, including majority of alleged witches themselves, believed that witches were indeed guilty in bad weather, food spoilage, misfortune, natural disasters, and other effects and phenomena. It was presence and gradualism of torture that was one of the factors that made most witches convinced in being possessed by evil spirits. Hence, witch-hunters could get more confidence, when witnessing how “witches” exposed their “real nature” and admitted being possessed. This uniform belief was one of the key factors in longevity of mass witch-hunting that spread for about 3 centuries with large numbers of witches being burned or killed (up to about 100,000 victims according to many sources). In such conditions, there were very few, if any, cases, when a witch-hunter could get insight (“Aha!” experience) and realize absurdity of their own behaviour.

What we seldom do with fear is to treat it entirely as an emotion, even for a while, to let its energy pass through us, in effect talking to ourselves. Feelings spontaneously emerge to grab our attention, focusing it in a particular direction, with a specific perspective that contains its own peculiar attitude. Such as a sudden feeling of sadness when it’s cloudy and cold, evoking a sense of being unprotected, exposed to hazardous elements, being trapped there – perhaps as a child in some way that produced great helplessness and fear.

Emotions simultaneously carry both small and very large experiential elements. This is nature’s way of offering small upsets that we can manage which are symbolically connected to very large hurts or traumas, almost always having occurred in childhood, brought to our attention via the feeling and its attitudes – just in case we need to remember them in order to survive or to grow psychically. In this way feelings can discover things; facts can’t.

-Reverse discrimination: This form of social psychological discrimination occurs when an individual is so worried about being perceived as prejudice, that they go out of their way to help out a minority. An example of this would be a school teacher giving their minority students higher grades than the other students simply based on the idea of reverse discrimination. This is also a fairly common type of social psychological discrimination.

The simplest experiment on obedience to authority and gullibility of ordinary people, in making them murder accomplices, was conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. The experiment was reproduced with the same basic result in many countries. In these studies, in spite of extreme resistance of the learners (victims), who yelled, screamed, and demanded to stop their torture during the later part, well over 50% of subjects (“teachers”) continued punishment until to the presumably lethal end. Obviously, in such conditions of extreme uncooperativeness of their victims, Milgram’s subjects experienced increasing and severe emotional shock during last stages of the experiment and most of them could not become confident murder accomplices.

In all these situations, authorities managed to fool ordinary people using various excuses (“social well being”, “harmonious one nation Aryan world”, “universal communism”, and “science and learning”) into killing of totally innocent people. The ability of these subjects-perpetrators to get the basic insight (“Aha, I was fooled!”) into their manipulated roles (of being fooled) depended on reactions and “opinions” of their victims. Hence, perpetrators’ ability to have the insight ranged from nearly zero in case of witch-hunting and Stalin’s repressions and up to almost 100% in case of the Milgram study.

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