Fear or reason – which is our way forward?
It’s been shown time and time again through history, through cycles of war and peace, that reason prevails over fear. But it’s hard to see how that works these days. With so many conspiracy theories, such a spread of misinformation and a dire lack of critical thinking over the last decade, it does seem that fear-based reactions are becoming primary.
Perhaps it is up to us to make sure that we choose reason over fear.
Yuval Harari is a historian who has helped us see why humans have become the dominant species on the planet. He says that we are at an evolutionary choice point and how we respond to this moment will determine whether we move forward as a species based on reason or a species based on emotional reactions. And if the latter happens, he says, we’re likely to destroy the ecosystem of our planet and humanity will struggle to survive.
Fear creates war
A first strike happens based on anger, a desire for revenge or a need to dominate over others. At this stage, of course you need to defend yourself and push back on the bully. And so it goes: attack, protect, counterattack and round and round. More people get hurt or die.
On the other hand, diplomacy, treaties, accords, and agreements create peace. These are created from a choice to use reason with one another.
Diplomacy requires our rational minds to overcome the powerful emotional brain with its knee-jerk reactions and desire for domination and revenge.
As a first step to becoming more reasoned, we need to understand how much our emotional brains crave revenge and power. While these create a formidable high and we love that buzz – it is short lived and not helpful in the long run: revenge may feel good, but it never resolves anything, nor does it create great relationships nor lead to great teamwork.
Fortunately, we know how to rein in these fear-based actions and choose peace. But we need to actively choose it.
And this is what Harari is talking about – choosing peace and reason over fear, so that all of humanity will survive.
How can we ensure we choose reason and contribute to a needed evolutionary shift?
We need to ask ourselves, how are we living life? How much does our competitive spirit lead us? What about our desire to opt for overly simplistic (but unhelpful) solutions, for domination, for revenge, for winning at all costs? How much do we just ignore the news, claiming ignorance and waiting for someone else to figure it out?
If you want to make a difference and help us all choose the path of reason over fear, here are a few steps:
- First get familiar with your own fear-based reactions.
- Then, when you notice that you are in it, take a step back. Maybe a big step back.
- Take time to breathe and reset.
- Look at the bigger picture and invest in understanding the complexity of what’s going on
- Then make a choice that will benefit the greater good