Fear of Ridicule

Often when I meet somebody for the first time and they ask that ordinary question “What do you do?” – I hesitate. What’s safe to say? Is this someone who will hear that I’ve created WINN, a small magazine that publishes information about experiences and experiments about the non-material dimensions of reality, and think I’m stupid, foolish, or crazy?

For nearly forty years I’ve been a psychotherapist highly invested in the mental health of other people and in my own credentials as a stable and sane professional. There have always been clients who’ve had experiences of non-material reality who knew that it was safe to talk with me about them. My mother and her parents knew that these experiences were real and told stories about times of healing, answered prayers, and dreams that led to extraordinary escapes. Standard science dismisses this view of reality as superstitious or delusional, making fun of those who are “foolish” enough to support it. Ridicule of anything that’s outside consensus thinking is a very effective way to suppress it.

Timothy Snyder has written a superb book that is small in size and huge in importance – ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Please read it from cover to cover. For this post, I’d like to quote from Chapter 8 – “STAND OUT”,
“Someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.”

 Snyder writes about history, about destructive governments, and about our national struggle with truth, freedom, and justice. He describes a leader (Churchill) and a few other people who were willing to stand out by seeing clearly and telling the truth during World War II,
“It is those who were considered exceptional, eccentric, or even insane in their
own time – those who did not change when the world around them did – whom we remember and admire today.”

 My personal issue with being willing to “stand out” is tiny compared with what is called for from each of us today as citizens of this country. It can be bewilderingly difficult to figure out what is needed now and what any one of us can do, but we can begin by facing our own choices and exploring what we value. Where do I stand? What does matter?

It has helped me to remember that ridicule is a tool of bullies – people who may be invested in maintaining the easy, conventional view and who are afraid of change. It’s also helpful (I remind myself) that although hiding out is easier than standing out, “safety” is an illusion. Being ridiculed is not what I need to be afraid of.

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ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Tim Duggan Books, An imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Trudy Summers says:


  2. Anne Wotring says:

    Great post! Nice comparison between WINN’s mission and On Tyranny, which is in my pile of books

  3. Lisbeth Bagnold says:

    Having just re-read this, 2 words come to mind: conviction and courage!

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