Does fear always lie behind what we dislike? I invite you to read my thoughts below and tell me yours…
Dislike is an often used word. We speak of it on a daily basis to describe how we feel about food and movies; people and their behaviours. Some of the time the word is used when, in fact, we are merely disinterested. For example, I dislike watching golf on TV. Truly, I have no antipathy towards the sport, or any fear, I just have no interest. So boredom aside, I ask again, are all of our dislikes fear based?
I started thinking about this after a conversation with my father during which he asked that we not talk about a certain subject. Although he would never admit to this, I know his displeasure in this particular topic was not about disinterest but fear. I won’t go into the details but in his fear, he shut down. That is what many of us do—we close all doors when we don’t feel safe. In this place of fear, rational thought disappears and we react with well known defences: we freeze, lash out, say awful things or retreat into our shells.
Fear is a strong emotion. Dislike, on the other hand, is not so strong; it can be quite mild. Still, I wonder if it is just a façade…. the first defence used to protect us from exposing our vulnerabilities?
Here’s a rather benign example: I dislike eating soft apples. Taste, of course, is a big factor in my apple eating preferences but biting into a soft apple will always leave me slightly repulsed. I sometimes even spit it out—a fairly strong reaction. I do this because something within me equates soft apples with decay and rot.
If we deconstruct my behaviour, we know there are no health benefits to eating rotten fruit except to provide necessary calories if you are really hungry. In fact, moldy fruit can be a detriment to one’s health. Is the revulsion I feel at eating a soft apple some instinctual fear that I am harming myself? Is my repulsion akin to the automatic recoil some have at seeing a snake or the desire to step back when near a high ledge? I would conclude then that my dislike is somewhat based in fear.
The same could be said of strong tasting vegetable like asparagus or brussels sprouts. Few children will eat what many adults consider to be tasty morsels. Is it because their body is telling them to be cautious; to be wary of food that can be bitter to the taste? Is their dislike then based in fear?
I also have a dislike of working for others. Oh, I do it because I have learned to "work" with it but it is not one of my great joys. If I dismantle this dislike I find it is more about distrust in authority. Looking back at my youth, I can see how authority was problematic enough to make it a healthy thing to fear. My current dislike in being told what to do, i.e. being an employee, could, in some part, stem from a childhood fear.
And one more rather pedestrian example, I dislike vacuuming. It is not the disinterest that many folk have; I clearly like a rug free of dust and dirt. But is my dislike based in fear? I am slightly embarrassed to say yes. When I was in my early twenties my place of dwelling was infested three times: carpet beetles, fleas and ants. I learned many lessons from these experiences; one of which was to keep a clean house. However, when I vacuum, there is a miniscule fear (I really had to look for this) that I might find, or worse, miss, some burgeoning colony of insects. To add to this I absolutely hate the noise. (But do I fear the noise?)
I could go on but it makes me think that whenever I express dislike for a person, place or thing… I should give it some exploration. I have done this in several areas of my life, like food preferences and … vacuuming, but I am not always so diligent when I dislike a person. The issue with this, as said above, is that when there is dislike a door closes. And, when the door is shut the possibility for changing perspectives or even feeling empathy decreases.
Would it not be better then to engage a person I dislike? We don’t have to become best buds but why push away when there may be some common ground? Why create separateness—which only perpetuates fear and otherness—when compassion and understanding can breed respectful mutuality?
Why let fear rule my preferences?