There is an adage that comes up regularly in bigfooting… “When you look for bigfoot, you find yourself.” The longer I pursue this subject, the more truth I find in that statement. Human psychology plays a pivotal role in our interaction with this subject. (Once again, I find myself staring at a blinking cursor, trying to figure out how to address a topic that is too complex for a single blog post. This will most likely develop into another one of those multi-part blog series.)
Today, I want to talk about fear.
Wikipedia defines fear as “ a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat.” The second-to-the-last word in that sentence is key: “Perceived”. We feel fear when we are in danger. We also feel fear when we perceive that we are in danger, whether we really are or not. That is an important distinction because fear is a powerful emotion that causes us to react in real ways, whether the thing we fear is real or not.
Fear has a powerful impact on human relationships. When we interact in a healthy way with the world around us – situations we find ourselves in or people we interact with – we could say that we function well. The opposite of that is DYSFUNCTION.
FEAR IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL (DYSFUNCTION) IN HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS.
Fear causes humans to do terrible things. It is the reason we go to war and is the underlying source of dysfunction in interpersonal relationships. It is the cause of greed (fear of poverty), it is the reason people lie (fear of the consequences that come with honesty), it is the reason people cheat on a spouse (fear of feeling unattractive) and the reason people try to control one another. Fear is the primary emotion behind secondary emotions such as jealousy, anger, insecurity, intolerance, distrust, hate, arrogance… if it’s a negative feeling or behavior, you’ll find fear behind it.
In case you question the truth of that statement, let’s do an exercise. Please humor me and try this:
Think of a situation that made you feel angry.
Describe the situation briefly. Perhaps someone cut you off on the freeway. Maybe a coworker didn’t invite you to a group lunch. Or you saw your significant other being a little too “friendly” with someone of the opposite sex. Maybe a friend said something behind your back. Or someone on an online forum pissed you off.
Describe the emotions you felt. Were you angry? Hurt? Jealous?
How did you react? Honestly. Did you yell? Sulk? Flip the guy off on the freeway who cut you off? Get snippy and short with your significant other? Withdraw from your coworker? Give your friend the silent treatment?
Finally, try to identify what it was you were AFRAID of. What did you FEAR in that situation? If someone cut you off on the freeway, did you feel afraid because they endangered you? If you weren’t invited to lunch, did you feel afraid that maybe you were being excluded intentionally? Did that person in the forum make you feel afraid that you looked stupid for what you said?
If you wish to share your answers or reactions in the comments section below, please do.
Everyone behaves “dysfunctionally” sometimes. In other words, everyone has knee-jerk reactions to perceived fears that perhaps don’t coincide with the actual level of danger. Our awareness of our fears and corresponding emotions, our ability to manage those successfully, and our ability to address them directly with one another using healthy interpersonal communication skills all play a part in how functional or dysfunctional we are in our dealings with ourselves and the people around us. The less aware we are of our fears and our unconscious reactions to them, the more they manifest in our lives in the form of dysfunction. Those who are the least aware of their dysfunction tend to broadcast it loudest in their interpersonal reactions and they are likely oblivious to it. That’s the key to dysfunction: it stems from fear and a lack of self-awareness. Those who are self-aware tend to see fear and dysfunction more clearly – in both themselves and in others.
Some fear is natural, healthy and helpful. You wouldn’t stand still if a semi-truck was barreling down on you. You wouldn’t stay in a relationship with an abusive individual. You wouldn’t walk up to a snarling dog and pet it. None of those reactions are dysfunctional. They’re healthy reactions to a real threat. But awareness of fear and our ability to determine which fears we have are REAL and which ones are simply PERCEIVED allows us to keep ourselves safe from real danger and minimize our dysfunctional reactions to “threats” which are only perceived.
In the bigfoot community, especially on online forums, I see truckloads of dysfunction - perceived fear manifesting in ugly reactions. Arrogance, sarcasm, sniping, backbiting, ridicule, threats, shaming, bruised egos, arrogance, arrogance… did I mention arrogance? ;)… Personalities posturing for a position of relevance, feeling threatened by something someone said, cutting down another’s contributions, in-fighting, arguing publicly and attempting to shame one another in front of peers, disregarding the feelings of witnesses or ridiculing them while wanting their “best” evidence, getting angry over perceived slights… Fear of someone else being right, fear of someone else being more popular, fear of being irrelevant, fear of others “damaging the credibility of the field” (in other words, “making me look like an ass…”), fear of being attacked (so people go on the offensive and attack first), fear of someone else being “first” or “better”, fear of being excluded, fear that someone else might actually be the one to solve the mystery or that it might never be solved at all…
Fear directs many interactions in the bigfoot community, because fear directs many things in our lives when we’re unaware of it… and many people are. I want to say that again because it’s important: People, for the most part, live unconsciously in fear. Our interactions with others in the bigfoot community are natural reflection of how we, as individuals, interact with fear in our personal lives. And it is exacerbated online. The internet is a sadly dehumanizing force in our lives; the people on the other end of the line are less real somehow. The whisper of our dysfunction is magnified to a deafening roar when we remove the accountability that goes with face-to-face interaction and hide behind keyboards and computer screens, nursing our fears, holding our grudges, licking the wounds of our damaged egos and gearing up for the next assault on that faceless username which threatened and frightened us.
Some react by bombarding others with intellect, not realizing that IQ doesn’t make a bit of difference, because the EQ (emotional quotient or emotional intelligence level) is the same. Those with expansive vocabularies smite their enemies with wordy, gleeful arrogance, but their reactions are no less dysfunctional than the guy who can’t spell worth a crap and resorts to name-calling or threats of physical violence. It’s all a reaction to fear.
So what does this have to do with bigfoot?
Just as we bring our personal fears and dysfunctions into play when we interact with others in the bigfoot community, we also bring them into our relationship with the subject… and the Sasquatches themselves, if we are out in the field. You can’t leave your personality at home. I’ve personally known witnesses who feared continuing ridicule and began changing their interactions within their habituation as a result in order to attempt to gather “proof” – to the detriment of the habituation and the relationship they had carefully cultivated. I’ve known researchers to commit egregious acts toward Sasquatches in an attempt to prove that they are “right” and that Sasquatch does, in fact, exist. It’s all based in fear.
Fear is the root of dysfunctional behavior and when we feel fear we usually try to gain control of the situation. The Big Guys don’t appear to like that very much. And who would? How would we react if someone approached us and attempted to have a controlling, dysfunctional relationship with us?
We’ll talk about that in the next blog post.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below and thanks for reading!
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