Newsletter – November / December 2009 – The role of fear in ROR


The role of fear in ROR

It’s still like Halloween 2009. The media still has us in the grip of fear. Every day we hear a new swine flu story: we’re running out of vaccine; you have to line up for 6 hours to get the injection; the injection may be more harmful than the H1N1 virus; a healthy child has died from it. Every day there’s a new story. And what is the effect of this barrage of bad news? Fear. Canadians are becoming more and more fearful.

We have noticed a sharp contrast in the population. Although we all have the same chance of getting sick, some people are way more afraid than others. When we were kids we used the term “’fraidy cat” to refer to kids who seemed more afraid than the rest of us. The Greek philosopher Aristotle noticed a similar phenomenon nearly 2300 years ago. He wrote about people who had too much fear, too little fear and just the right amount of fear. Too much fear makes us behave like cowards; too little fear makes us cavalier, failing to take reasonable precautions; just the right amount of fear makes us courageous, getting on with our lives in full recognition of real danger. As the second wave of swine flu starts, the media is reporting story after story of the ones with too much fear.

Think back to Halloween 2008. Do you remember last year’s fear story? It was the stock market, the economy, the banking system, the collapse of your RRSP. Those with too much fear were predicting depression and failure of the world’s banking system. Those with too little fear were singing the old refrain “Don’t sell your stocks – we’re in for the long term. Everything will be fine.” Those with the right amount of fear had sold out and were patiently waiting for the end of the crisis.

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