Bringing Balance to our Xenophobia
Late Saturday night I noticed my neighbors' flood light on. I'm not usually a paranoid person, but Saturday morning these neighbors woke to find three slashed tires on two of their vehicles, presumably at the hands of a known assailant. As I tiptoed from window to window trying to see what - or who - had triggered the motion detector, I thought, If that guy is back and I call the police, he'll know who called; my house is the only one with lights on in the whole block.
I pressed through my fear and made the call. The police cruiser on its way, I was ready for my final chores before heading off to bed: the dog and the trash both needed to go outside. My paranoid thoughts continued, He slashed their tires, obviously not a well man. What's to keep him from using that slashing tool on me? The dog peed on the carpet and the trash overflowed with clean up rags. Both better options, I reasoned, than my children waking to a mangled mother.
We can argue whether my fears were well-reasoned, but clearly my behavior was determined by my fear. Some fear-based behaviors are easy to identify because we put "-phobia" on the end of them and list them in the DSM-III.
But some fear-based behavior patterns elude DSM-III classification and are embraced as accepted societal norms. We don't walk under a ladder because we are afraid we will have bad luck. We avoid an activity because we are afraid we won't measure up to someone's expectations - or our own. We take control in a relationship because we fear the other person will not fulfill their responsibilities. To counteract the bad luck from spilled salt, we toss some over our shoulder.
When it comes right down to it, we all suffer from a form of xenophobia: The fear...of anything that is strange or foreign (Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, 2002).
Fear always projects our negative expectations into a strange and foreign land: the future. We cannot know what tomorrow will bring. Yet, based on our assumption that something bad will happen, we make tactical decisions to protect ourselves. Even if our fear is rational, it still projects a negative outcome into an unknown future.
The problem with these fear-based behaviors is that in protecting ourselves from the bad, we also shield ourselves from the good.
What decisions did you make yesterday that were rooted in fear? Are you brave enough to live today free from xenophobia-the fear of anything strange or foreign? Embrace the unknown with curiosity instead of fear. Make decisions that leave you vulnerable instead of protected. Open yourself to all life has to offer.
Disclaimer: There are times fear is rationale and protective. As I stood a captive in my own home, I thought how horrible it would be to live every second in fear for my life. Yet, I realize this is how thousands of abused women, men and children exist every day. Obviously, these types of situations are exempt from the challenge to "[m]ake decisions that leave you vulnerable instead of protected." If you are in an abusive situation, please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.