Fear and Anxiety in Politics

Fear and anxiety affect the actions of people and the ways how they react to particular situations. Among the emotions experienced in a person’s lifetime, fear and anxiety influence the responses to the life incidences. The two, therefore, can be used to analyze why human beings do the things they do and how this influences all persons around them. Fear and anxiety are a significant force in politics, as they affect the decisions of people in leadership and the ways how they react to the threats of danger facing them. Politics is a significant aspect of human leadership; hence, an analysis of three articles reveals why, how, as well as under what conditions fear and anxiety are a significant force in politics.

To begin with, fear and anxiety become a significant force in politics by creating a window in which individuals can be manipulated. According to the terror management theory, human beings are constantly aware of the fact that they will die one day (Pyszczynski, 2004). With this in mind, therefore, human beings live in constant fear of natural disasters, hostile humans, diseases, as well as natural processes. As illustrated by Strauss (2016), powerful organizations focus on creating fear among people, as fearful individuals are easy to manipulate. Institutions, such as the media and insurance companies, benefit from instilling fear among the masses. According to Psyzczynski (2004), the Americans in response to the events of 9/11 behaved in a way that reflected how individuals cling to specific worldviews as terror management strategies and protect their self-esteem.

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            Consequently, the desire for life creates inevitable terror in the minds of human beings that there is no escape to death. Hence, cultural worldview provides a meaningful, orderly, and soothing conception of the world that there are aspects of life that continue their existence even after death. When individuals hold a similar worldview as others, people build faith in them while shunning those with different views about reality. In this case, manipulation in politics occurs when some human beings follow people who hold similar worldviews as they do. Individuals, therefore, follow these leaders blindly, which eventually results in manipulation and exploitation.

            Additionally, fear and anxiety provide a cultural anxiety buffer, hence becoming a significant factor in politics. The perception that people are important is based on the existing order, meaning of life, and self-esteem. It gives individuals hope in the political structures. Such structures offer people a sense of belonging and allow them to contribute meaningfully to the reality of life. According to Pyszczynksi (2004), “social worldviews and self-esteem are therefore significant for moderately anxiety free living, and individuals go to implausible extents to retain and protect them, because of the safety from existential anxiety that they provide.” The political associations that people form give them a sense of belonging, and they act as anxiety buffers. In this way, sharing similar ideas with people contributes to meaningful lives that drive anxiety away.

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            Human fear of death also contributes to increased nationality and formation of group identities that leaders can utilize for their own benefits. For example, 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre increased anxiety in America and destroyed the belief that the Americans were safe from any form of terror attack. The events of this day, however, proved that the Americans were as vulnerable as any other individuals. The increased fear and anxiety of death pushed thousands of people to support any act of patriotism expressed by the leaders. For instance, the response of president George W. Bush to the attack attracted increased nationalism and patriotism among the Americans. The reminders of death, therefore, push one to support other persons who share similar beliefs and political orientation and resist those with varied political beliefs. The survivors of the attacks became inclined to ideologies that provided rigid solutions to the fear of attacks experienced (Pyszczynski, 2004). After the attacks, the witnesses and survivors became more conservative politically and were inclined to the leaders who assured them of their safety.

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            In addition to this, fear affects politics by interfering with learning, thought process, and change. The desire for structure and order pushes people to accept easy solutions to problems faced as well as influences the ability to consider all the available options. The lack of anxiety control, therefore, forces individuals to cling to old ways of thinking and problem-solving, which influences their political choices. In such a case, the defensive clinging prevents the adoption of change and improvement. Therefore, people settle for the same leaders, the same leadership styles, and political parties; thus, affecting  the approach to politics. Hence, people maintain the old ways of doing things to ensure the status quo.

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            Fear and anxiety also create a state of alarm among people, thus leading to anger towards specific groups and individuals. Therefore, the law of group polarization states that the discussion of an issue among likeminded people contributes to extreme views. Loss aversion, according to Strauss (2016), pushes people to fear losing something and becoming less excited about gaining something of greater value. Hence, this notion makes human beings vote for the leaders who would less likely hurt the country and not those who would help it. It is true that people focus on the views of the individuals with whom they associate. From observation, people are pushed to act and think in a way that reflects the views of the group in which they belong.

            Other than that, anxiety presents uncertainty among individuals that the politicians use to influence the behavior of the voters. According to LeDoux, “Americans are most terrified of cyber terrorism, bribery of government officers, commercial trailing of individual data and terrorist occurrences” (Strauss, 2016). Strauss (2016) adds that autocracy administrations have increased in the past since they offer answers to the complications faced by people. Uncertainty and fear of what the future holds, therefore, push people to desire an authoritarian regime. Neumann (2017) further points out that true anxiety as a result of wars, hunger, and desires transforms into neurotic anxiety, thus allowing human beings to identify with particular leaders to overcome the fear. In so doing, the leaders gain advantage over the masses by pushing their personal interests and ignoring the interests of the general public. 

            Ceasaristic identification also determines how fear and anxiety become significant factors in politics. According to Neumann (2017), ceaseristic identification refers to “the decisive affective identification is that of masses with leaders. It is built upon a nearly total ego-shrinkage.” Therefore, the identification of the masses with the leaders contributes to the anxiety through manipulation and lack of understanding of the historical process. For instance, the manipulation of Europe to hate one common enemy despite the divisions in class, parties, and religion is stemmed from following one leader focused on the conquest of Europe. Choosing to identify with a leader, therefore, creates a false sense of hope referred to as the theory of conspiracy.

            Furthermore, fear and anxiety also become significant force in politics under the condition of dependability on the people in leadership. According to Neumann (2017), “to be successful in present-day society it is much more important to stand in well with the powerful than to preserve oneself through one’s own strength.” From observation, people depend on the leaders for decisions that concern their safety. For instance, the decision to respond to the attacks of 9/11 mainly depended on the president. The dependability also contributes to the struggle to maintain the power. Therefore, the assent to power must be maintained by institutionalizing anxiety to sustain the people in leadership. The political leaders, therefore, achieve this through the terror, promotion of propaganda, and crime committed by masses. Hence, the demagogues maximize on fear and anxiety to maintain their relevance in the political scene.

            Understanding the psychological processes, such as fear and anxiety, enables people to comprehend the actions of people. The examination of how anxiety affects human beings requires the examination of the causes of anxiety and the ways how it informs the actions of individuals. It is, however, difficult to determine the specific causes of anxiety, as they vary with individuals. The lack of a proper analysis of the roots of anxiety, therefore, contributes to the limited understanding of how anxiety affects the actions of politicians and other leaders. In this way, analyzing how fear and anxiety affect politics enables individuals to interpret the actions of people in response to power.            

All in all, it is evident that anxiety inhibits freedom and prevents individuals from making sensible decisions. Fear and anxiety, therefore, form the center stage in politics, as leaders manipulate the followers through fear by granting them a false sense of security. Based on the three articles, the voting patterns in the world are dependent on the perception that a leader is able to guarantee the safety of the citizens and provide solutions to problems faced. Understanding how fear and anxiety shape politics involve the analysis of different leaders and regimes to prove the terror management theory.

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