Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Final Solution: Ministry of Fear

Some people are always afraid. Almost everything they do is based on the avoidance of anxiety-producing situations, though like hypochondria one particular object of concern is quickly replaced by another. Adrenalin is produced as a reaction to fear and a doctor can easily elicit a panicked response by diagnosing a disease. He or she was afraid of their own shadow is the expression used to describe those whose vulnerabilities are easily excited. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of jumping when you spy your reflection in a store window. The instinctual acknowledgement is mediated by the fact that the shock of familiarity is cut short; the preconception in one’s own mind may be different and many people don’t really look at more than a part of their faces in the mirror, say the part they're shaving or brushing with powder. Terror is a matter of perception and the failure to be met by the familiar (say in those suffering from prosopagnosia or Capgras syndrome), can result in the loss of the consoling feeling of recognition. A classic situation which is bound to get the heart racing is the perception of a dangerous or threatening-looking character on a darkened street. The Edward Hopper corner with the lonely street lamp light is an archetypically ominous situation. Acrophobia is the fear of heights and agoraphobia of open spaces (from agora or marketplace). Daredevils like Houdini or the Wallendas thrive on fear, tolerating it at levels that would be lethal to normal people. Stock car drivers and Olympians who compete in the ski jump traffic in apprehension and apparently learn to control it to such an extent that it can generate fuel in conditions that would have produced paralysis in almost anyone else. Loss aversion is talked about by neuroscientists and constitutes a form of irrational fear that may result in maladaptive behavior. Panic! was a 50s TV series. Ministry of Fear (l944) is the title of a Fritz Lang film, starring Ray Milland, based on a Graham Greene novel.

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