THREATS AND RISKS: a personal re-evaluation

This insight came to me while semi-meditating in a park, looking up into a tree. The family gathering around me was moving along with fits and starts and I had decided to not attempt to help where help was not wanted.

Walking in the park before meditating I had the insight that I was very, very safe there.  There were no threats to my physical being. No terrorist attack, no asteroid falling or even airplane crashing on me. I realized that many other humans are often under threat. A threat is a potential hurt that could come at any moment. Rabbits are alert to threats when out, but are probably more relaxed when deep in their burrow.  There are places in the world where a person is constantly under threat if out and about.  There are threats of home invasions, house fire, or heart attacks. We rightly ignore very low probability threats.

I am in threat whenever I drive my car; my most dangerous practice.

  •     Bulleting down a lane in a thin metal shell, along with a stream of other shells moving along with me – some moving in and out of lanes, slowing down and speeding up. Another stream of shells are moving in the opposite direction. I control my thin metal shell with my hands and feet. The direction of my movement is sensitive to my arm and feet movements, a slight mistake would put me in the way of one of those other streams of shells. Other drivers in other shells might slipup and put theeir shells in other streams, possibly your stream.  A slight miss up can result in serious injury or death, yourself or others at your hands.
  •     Presented this way, who would ever learn to drive a car. Fortunately most of us are driven by our unconscious minds. We may choose to turn but our muscles turn the car with only slight modulation by consciousness, if any. Given the extent of distractions available to drivers it is a miracle that there is not more carnage on the road.

My insight was the distinction between threat and risk (the concepts which I label by these two terms).   Risk is imagined, potential threat sometime in the future, not a threat at the time one is comprehending or feeling risk.

  •     Threats and risks can be evaluated for oneself, for other persons, or for social systems.

I am very sensitive to risk – both short term and long term.  At family events I am constantly aware that things will likely not go as others expect.  I am super sensitive to such risk.  I often react emotionally with alert as if it was a n immediate threat.  If I attempt to intervene, to help others so that what they anticipate may occur, my words are viewed as interference and usually angrily resisted, claiming that “I am trying to control everything”.

  •     It is true that I am also thinking of myself having to experience the chaos potentially coming.  But, I believe that I am also sensitive to the feelings of others and trying to help them is my primary intention.
  •     I have this same sensitivity to all happenings, local to global, from creating a local food system for Tucson to climate change and the rape of Gaia..

When I am physically with people I can be super sensitive to their needs and potential threats.  I “see” how what they want could be differently achieved, even insured. Often I do little things which are noted and usually welcomed. In the past I received positive feedback about my sensitivity, which was welcomed.  This, unfortunately, has seldom been the case with family members.

  •     What I learned at the recent family outing was to relax my need to help others. The short term risks are their responsibilities.  There is not a threat of real damage.  Exception: I have felt that my very sensitive and emotionally fragile daughter, who plans and constructs such elaborate family performance-gatherings might be destroyed by a potential failure I anticipate.  She gets an A++ for much of the planning, creating elaborate sets, and physical setup. But she rates a C or lower for others aspects of the whole happening – aspects I could help her learn to be better.  She cannot be approached, to help her, without her accusing me of “plotting against her”.
  • See pics from the Celtic Family Gathering on March 22, 2014.
  •     However, four gatherings have gone by without the failures I anticipated. The anticipated risks never became threats. Much of what she had planned didn’t happen – or anyway as she had hoped; but that didn’t seem to bother anyone (who were more interested in just being together) nor was she overtly disappointed.  Until today, after what even I believed was a relatively good time, she says no one really wants to attend.  True, no one is nearly as energized by the event, even when they had been asked to devote many hours helping her make things for the happening. Other family members (mother or sons) go along,  hoping that her mental health will be be helped by being so involved in creative activity.  Each time I begin wanting to help her succeed; I really could contribute. However, her anger at me generates negative feeling in me – possibly because of rejection. What hurts her most is her imagined rejection of her by me.

The above events are told as illustration of the relationship between risk and threat. The story is still in process and the family dynamics was not the intent of relating the story. It demonstrates how emotions and feelings are closely related to threats and risks.
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There is a much bigger and significant issue. Humankind is in great risk from catastrophic threats.  Indeed these threats are already present in many places and on many populations. The list begins with Earth Changes (composed of Climate Changes, Global Heating, Pollution, Water and Energy shortages, mass extinctions, etc.) and the collapse of human support systems. The ultimate risk is the extinction of humankind and severe scaring of Gaia.

With my lack of mental imagery I am able to comprehend these risks without imagining myself facing these as immediate threats.  Others with vivid mental imagery are not so fortunate and must repress or trivialize such risks. We cannot experience imagined threats without damage. Why different people are reacting with such variation to our Crisis-of-Crises is many factored and very complex. Humankind as a whole has the real potential to rise to this challenge; whether this potential can be actualized, in time, is unknown.

The worst that will happen – in places and to persons
IS ALREADY HAPPENING IN MANY PLACES AND TO MANY PERSONS!!!

This I can sense with some emotion.  I can look at pictures and view videos of tragedies and experience the emotion – because I will not replay these images in the future.  Others have told me they cannot watch because the replays are too disturbing. Maybe I should let my emotions turn to strong feelings (if I am able) to motivate me to better action.  I can “feel for” others whose imagery and “imagined feelings” are so unpleasant that they refuse to communicate with me on these concerns.  “Why do you have to be so negative?” they say. For me, being aware of potentially threatening outcomes (risks)is simply considering useful information and not “negative” (even though it may generate negative feelings).

Risk and threat must be attended to carefully as work to we emerge a better future.