Sunday Purrs: the culture of fear

Let go of fear, embrace change, and move toward joy. – Buckley

Fear is a normal response to a threatening stimulus or situation. Without the fear response, neither cats nor humans would survive. Fear prepares us for fight or flight. While our domesticated cats don’t often deal with fear of survival in their environment, some of these fears may be hardwired. The good news is that, with proper support from their guardians, cats can get over their fears. Allegra used to be terrified of bad weather, but has come a long way in the past year in overcoming her fears.

But what happens when fear becomes a part of our daily lives?

We live in a culture of fear. There has never been a time when people have been afraid of so much. Three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did twenty years ago. The media would have us believe that we need to be afraid of everything: the weather, the economy, terrorism, the government, threats to our health. If you listen to them, Armageddon is just around the corner. We get warnings via e-mail, text and social media. Our online lives are driven by fear of security breaches with the passwords, codes and questions required to access the sites we visit (how many of us really remember the kid’s name that lived three doors down from us on the first street we ever lived on?).

Nature did not design the fear response to be a non-stop occurence. When it kicks in, higher levels of adrenalin and cortisol are released into our system. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate and delivers increased oxygen and energy to muscles. While this is necessary in a real fear situation, it is ultimately a stress response, and we know that prolonged periods of stress lead to illness – in ourselves, and in our cats.

It’s hard not to buy into this culture of fear, but there are ways to cope:

Don’t watch the news. This is the single most effective step I know of toward better mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. You are discerning about what you put into your body – why not use that same judgment about what you allow to enter into your mind? If you must watch the news, don’t watch first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed.

Change the story in your mind. Before you buy into one of those fear based stories, use common sense. How likely is it that this thing you fear will happen? You have the power to control your thoughts: change your story.

Set boundaries. Turn off some of the alerts you get. Do you really need daily stock market updates? Do you need an e-mail each time a weather alert is issued?

Meditate. Meditation, or any other form of a structured spiritual practice, will help you shift your mindset from one of fear to one of love and connectedness with something greater than you.

Pet your cats. Studies have shown that petting a cat can lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart rate. It’s impossible to be fearful when you watch a sleeping cat.

Don’t buy into our culture of fear. Create a world where you’re in charge of how you feel. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your cats. Cats are sensitive creatures who pick up on their humans’ emotions. If you live in a constant state of fear and stress, so will your cats.

How are you counteracting the culture of fear we live in?


20 Comments on Sunday Purrs: the culture of fear

  1. What a great post. And such good tips. I really try to do those things, but sometimes things just get the best of me. As for petting my kittys, sometimes I do it too much and my girl gets up and walks away from me! (lol)

    But thank for the post. I retweeted it!

  2. Thanks for this timely story! I’m with you all the way. We just returned from a trip to New Mexico, where I occasionally looked at the Albuquerque newspaper but otherwise avoided the news. Instead, we got out and saw things – the ancient petroglyphs, the Georgie O’Keefe museum, the Rio Grande Nature Center. We got outside of ourselves, which had a tremendously positive impact on our psyches. Also, it helps me to give to and write letters to support causes I believe in, and to actually slow down and write letters to friends by hand. And, reading good books can help. Exercise, lots of it. Connecting with people and animals “in person”, finding *community.*

  3. Very timely post for me today as I’m struggling with anxiety regarding my career / finances. The cats and I thank you for posting this! 🙂

  4. …and then, do something positive. Create something, visit someone, volunteer, invite friends for dinner, and, of course, play with your cats! Show the fear that you have no space for it in your life. How could I have time to be fearful when I’ve been surrounded by beautiful and inspiring cats for decades, and there is so much to share about them?

  5. Ingrid..thanks so much. Loved your post..passing in to alot of friends. Doing alot of rescue so you know i hate the news! Giles helps me thru hard times..terrific article..thanks wendy

  6. Caren and Cody’s post was right on target. I guess it’s not so much the holiday but the wishes for the Happy. Thanks so much , D

  7. Another wonderful post Ingrid. Shared with Mark….he’s so proud of himself… confirms so much of what he believes and shares with me…repeatedly. He did add, “I guess we need to get a more cooperative cat”…Abby is a “pet her when SHE wants it” cat – lol

    Thanks so much for the much needed confirmation.

  8. I’m not sure I am counteracting the culture of fear, but I’m giving it a good effort. I have a child with autism/Asperber’s and he suffers from paralyzingly anxieties. We’ve been in therapy for years trying to combate it and he’s learned some good coping techniques, but it is never gone for him. I have learned so much from my son. When it comes to stress and anxiety, for me- I ask one question to quiet that noise. Will this matter in 5, 10 or even 20 years? It’s interesting the answers you might come up with. If the cable bill is a day late, will it have lasting effect? If I stay and have a cup of tea with my mother instead of going shopping, will it matter tomorrow? It’s not easy to meet all our responsibilities in the 21st century. We are pulled in so many directions. Sometimes we just have to stop and listen to our own heartbeat and hopefully find the correct rhythm for our life….at least for today. Please understand, I’m not saying I’m good at this or that I don’t regularly blow a gasket dealing with life. But if I can stop for a moment and look at what really matters and really need attention today – and focus on those few things – then, hopefully, I can model for my son, how to cope with what can be a scary world. I guess this didn’t have a lot about cats in it. My cats are one of the things that matter everyday. I spend at least a hour with Mistletoe asleep on my chest and 30 to 45 minutes playing with Hitch and the rest of the gang most days. These are time to take care of some of the important things in life. Some people meditate, I let a cat take a nap on my chest. Whatever works to quiet the noise from the world outside, because it’s really important to hear the noise coming from inside.
    I was looking through my mind for an appropriate way to close. I started with Merry Xmas, but that wasn’t right because I hate the X and not everyone celebrates Christmas. So I went to Happy Holidays, but that always seems sterile. So Peace on Earth came to mind. But really that starts inside us all, one by one. Without Piece of mind is there Peace on Earth? So,

    Wishing You Peace of Mind, for the Season and for Always,
    Dorothy with Mistletoe & Hitch

    • What a wonderful and wise comment, Dorothy! I’m going to have to remember that question about whether it will matter – what a great way to stop the fear cycle.

      As for your comment about the appropriate holiday greeting, I just read a post on Caren’s blog this morning that also addresses this topic: remembering that even though we’re all different, we also share the important things. Here’s the link to Caren’s post:

      Peace and purrs – to you, Mistletoe and Hitch!

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