“Fear can be uncomfortable and crippling”, says neuropsychologist Dr Theo Tsaousides. “But eliminating it would be the equivalent of taking down your home alarm system because it sometimes makes loud and irritating sounds.”
A Little About Human Fear
“Chronic stress, the low-intensity variety of fear expressed as free-floating anxiety, constant worry, and daily insecurity, can quietly but seriously harm your physical and mental health over time”, Tsaousides says.
Some neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds.
“Fear is partly imagined….our brains are so efficient, we begin to fear a range of stimuli that are not scary (conditioned fear) or not even present (anticipatory anxiety). We get scared because of what we imagine could happen” says Tsaousides in Psychology Today.
There is little that is more motivating than fear. Enter Advertisers.
Product and Political Advertising
There is a lot of advertising that tells us to change the way we think and act, or else.
High-fear appeals alert people to the dangers of drunk driving or depletion of natural resources. These ads can be effective because the advertisers message is congruent with the public good.
On the other end of the spectrum, we are constantly bombarded with low-fear advertising that, although less anxiety provoking, still creates anxiety in us, that can accumulate.
We are also more motivated by the fear of losing something than the good of gaining something. Consider these two examples:
Pioneers in Fear Based Advertising
The origins of low-fear appeals in consumer product advertising can be attributed to Listerine’s 1920s advertising campaign in which a market for mouthwash was essentially created from nothing. At the time of airing, the average person bathed once a week, never put on deodorant and body odors were accepted as part of life. The makers of Listerine did not make a mouthwash so much as they made halitosis. And the results were staggering; within seven years of the original campaign launch, Listerine’s revenues rose from $115,000 to $8 million.
Another example of the growth is the cleaning product industry. In the 1980s, your typical household cleaner advert centered around cleanliness and showed a relaxed approach to keeping ourselves and our homes clean.
But fast-forward 30 years and we are told that we are constantly at risk of infection. Fear appeals bombard consumers with messages that germs are the evil to be purged at all costs, using buzzwords such as “antibacterial”.
Tom Oakley, The Growth of Fear Appeals in Advertising
How do You React to Product and Political Advertising?
According to the theory, appeal to fear will only be effective if there is a strong perceived threat and a belief that the product or promise will effectively remove the threat. Let’s look at your possible responses to an appeal-to-fear message.
- No response – You either don’t think the danger will happen or it won’t be that bad if it does happen.
- Fear-control response – In this situation you may believe that you are susceptible to a threat and believe that it will have severe consequences, but you don’t believe that the recommended product or political promise will be effective in preventing the harm, or you don’t believe you have the ability to take effective action against the threat. You may decide to just ignore the threat or convince yourself the threat is not real.
- Danger-control response – If you believe
- the perceived threat is high
- the recommended action will be effective
- and you can effectively engage in the action
advertising will be successful in getting you to do what it wants you to do.
Fear Appeal in Advertising: Theory & Examples
And this is the advertisers’ goal. With many years of study in human behavior, they know how to make you believe what they are selling. Many advertisers are selling a remedy for the fear or fear of loss they have created in your mind.
Advertising scare tactics are not going to go away. As long as they drive customers, votes, orders and visits to the doctor, they will continue.
Your defense against unnecessary fear is to consider the true merit of advertising using your little gray cells. As you watch a commercial you can easily identify if it is a fear-based ad. For example, every prescription drug ad I saw this week was fear-based. Label it as such in your mind. Once you have done this, the advertiser can’t manipulate you. You are on to them.
Or if you feel you are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, fast forward through those commercials. Delayed streaming will reduce the total commercial minutes per hour and the result of increased streaming use has forced the networks to reduce their commercial minutes per hour. YEAH!!
Accept the Fact that You are Just as Good as Anyone Else and You Don’t Have to Keep Up with the Joneses
Another predicament that advertisers create for you and your children, is consumerism. The movie-inspired toy, the greatest new car, the latest fashion trend – last year’s is no longer interesting, is it?.
You may be able to resist…until friends start raving about their new acquisitions. Then the desire to ‘Keep up with the Jones’ strikes you or your kids with feelings of inferiority or the fear of being seen as inferior.
So you buy. Are you stretching your budget to do so? If you are, you are setting yourself up for the anxiety of unpaid or late bill payment and accumulating credit card interest.
If you are realistic enough to avoid the lure of the latest and greatest stuff, you may still feel awkward or anxious when hanging out with friends who have more money to spend than you do.
Ruth Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples says “The key is to develop a firm sense of who you are, and then to use a few simple rules to socialize sometimes with them [wealthier friends] in ways that don’t hurt you financially.”
Here, Hayden suggests some strategies for doing that.
Barriers To Overcome
Feelings of inadequacy. Not being able to participate in social activities because of financial limitations can shake your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Feelings of deprivation. You may really want to see the football playoffs from a corporate box or eat at the hottest new haute-cuisine restaurant. Bowing out can leave you feeling sorry for yourself, or jealous and resentful of your wealthier friends.
Fear of abandonment. You may fear that if you keep saying no to outings with your better-off friends, you’ll be marginalized and pushed out of the tribe — invited less often or not at all.
Excuse anxiety. It can be stressful to explain why you are continually ducking out of certain social engagements, especially if you find yourself making up false excuses. Keeping track of your fibs can be confusing, shame inducing and exhausting.
Money-taboo discomfort. It’s tough for some people to admit — even to themselves — that they simply don’t have the resources to keep up with their more affluent friends. In this culture, we almost never talk about our fiscal realities or cash flow because of a basic insecurity about how we’ll be perceived by others. Our financial status is closely tied to our sense of self-worth.
Strategies For Success
Build self-acceptance. Establishing authentic relationships with any circle of friends starts with knowing who you are, where you are in life, and being OK with that. Realize that the main thing you bring to any social experience is the gift of your presence.
Choose thoughtfully. As with any expense, you can decide to budget for the pricey outings that really matter to you. Add money to your “entertainment fund” by saving in some other area, and then go to only those high-end events you can afford. And what if, on occasion, a wealthier friend genuinely wants to pick up the tab? If it doesn’t wound your pride or leave you feeling indebted, fine. Only you can know for sure.
Reach out. Proactively suggest options that are more in your price range. That way you build connections without breaking the bank.
Diversify. To fight feelings of isolation, connect with some friends at your own income level or who don’t have such expensive tastes.
Don’t fib. Instead of offering excuses or over-explaining, keep your answers short, straightforward and honest. Simply opt out: “I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to go with you this time.” You don’t have to go any further than that.
Your Kids and the Little Joneses
Kids can be very persistent and will use every manipulative expression and emotion to convince you of their “need” for what they have seen advertised by manufacturers or friends. Some adults are the same. Stay strong against the onslaught and consider the following:
Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev. in and article entitled The Beauty in NOT Keeping Up With the Joneses explains how saying ‘no’ may be the best gift we can give our kids
Everyone who has kids or who has ever been a kid knows that there is enormous pressure for young people to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets. Sometimes, depending on whom our kids hang out with, the toys and gadgets can get pretty elaborate—and expensive.
One of the most important things that we can teach our children is gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude, as a concept, is hard to teach, however. It is not something that just talking about makes happen. Rather, it is more about providing a life that inspires a child to appreciate what she receives.
If a child is always getting everything she wants, it is unreasonable to expect her to be genuinely grateful. She may not know any other way is even possible.
Gratitude in children seems to arise from two main things.
First, being exposed to circumstances that are different and less than their own (for example, when my daughter meets orphans from Uganda, whose Christmas wish is for a pencil so that they can go to school).
Secondly, gratitude comes from sometimes NOT getting. The experience of NOT getting cannot be conceptual if it is going to truly teach appreciation. It is very basic: when we have to do without something that we want, we appreciate it more when we actually do get it.
NOT keeping up with the Joneses is also important for developing self-esteem. Getting everything their friends have won’t give them self-esteem, it is really just a recipe for insecurity. Children begin to believe that they will no longer be included in the group if they don’t have the same toys as their friends.
Not getting helps children develop the confidence that their value as a person is based on more than just owning what their friends own, and their friendships about sharing more than just products. Children who sometimes have to do without have to explain why they don’t have the thing that everyone else has, and that explaining builds character.
Finally, NOT keeping up with the Joneses, in the long run, helps children avoid depression. Each time we develop a craving for the next toy, the deep belief behind that craving, conscious or otherwise, is that the next toy will bring us happiness. We chase one thing after another, and each brings a few moments of pleasure.
But soon, each fails us in terms of providing any kind of lasting happiness. With each failure, we shift our craving onto the next item, and with it, our hope for lasting happiness.
Giving our children everything they want encourages the belief that happiness and satisfaction will be found externally—inside the next best thing.
When we have to do without a bit, however, we are forced to develop internal aspects of ourselves, to develop the skills that create a true sense of wellbeing. In so doing, not getting allows us to avoid the despair and emptiness that result from chasing external objects in search of internal wholeness.
Internal and External Needs Realized Through Your Connection with God
The above solid advice of Ruth Hayden will go a long way to alleviating some adult anxiety. Clinical social worker, Rev. Nancy Colier’s advice will ease your conscience when you have to say “no” to the kids while providing a valuable learning experience. If you find their advice useful, I would like to hear your experience. Please leave me a comment.
If you choose to follow the spiritual path and become acquainted with God, you will never again be enticed by advertising because you just don’t need what they have to sell. The fear advertisers attempt to generate will seem ridiculous to you because you trust God to take care of you. And you will value yourself, as you are and as you are becoming….there will be no need to compare yourself to others….you are the special child of God.
In our Oneness with God we already have all that the Father has. “I and the Father are one and all that the Father has is mine.” If we individually are experiencing a lack, it is not because we actually lack. It is because of our inability to make contact with [the Source of] our supply.
….throughout the Great Depression there was no lack in this country [USA}….there was a greater abundance of crops, of fish in the ocean, birds in the air, lumber in the forests, grains in warehouses, in barns and in fields and in gardens….If any of us suffered from a lack of sufficiency, it was not because there was an actual condition of lack. It was because we were not in tune with the source of supply, we did not have access to the infinite supply.
The world seeks it’s good in the external realm. It seeks to find peace, joy, satisfaction, home, companionship, or supply from the outer world of people and things. When you turn to the spiritual path, you learn that the world’s weapons will not do for us, the world’s manner of protecting itself will not do for us, the world’s way of seeking it’s good will not do for us. When you ponder the statement “The Kingdom of God is within you”, it immediately becomes clear that to go outside to find your good will not work. The place to seek it is within.
Spiritual living is based on the ability to contact God….Not only is there a God, but He is at hand….If we are not having the harmonies, peace and prosperity to which we are entitled as children of God, let us be fair about it and acknowledge that we have not made His acquaintance, we do not know Him aright….Knowing statements of truth about God and knowing God are different things.
You may say “But I do recognize God as the Source”. How often and how consistently do you? It must be more than an occasional thought. It must be a continuous activity, until your consciousness is so imbued with the realization of God as the Source that it becomes automatic and you no longer need to consciously think of it. Then the flow begins.
Supply is spirit and it is within you. It is never visible and it will never become visible. What you behold in the outer world is the forma that supply assumes. Outwardly, supply takes the form of money, food, clothing, housing, transportation, business capital and so forth.
Ideas, inspiration, intelligence, wisdom, service or love bring about the forms of supply, but they themselves are invisible. Only the results are visible.
So it is with all poets, authors, sculptures, painters, composers. Their invisible talents are the substance of what becomes visible as poems, books, paintings, teachings or other forms of art. Their supply is their inner light, their inspiration.
Supply is just as spiritual as such qualities. It too is not something that comes to us, it is embodied within us and we must express it. This we do by casting our “bread” upon the waters, and it comes back to us as our supply. This is the only supply to which we are spiritually entitled. We are not permitted to take someone else’s supply. Prisons are full of people who tried to take the bread that someone else had placed on the waters.
The Master [Jesus] gave us many examples of how we may cast our bread upon the waters: forgiving, praying for our enemies, sharing and tithing.
Joel S Goldsmith, Invisible Supply
A more complete discussion from Joel Goldsmiths on the Kingdom within can be found here.
When we are connected with our Inner Being, God, which provides for all our needs, we will see through the constant sales pitches meant to manipulate us into purchasing false hope, induced by fear and exaggerated promises.
I have never seen a righteous man begging bread. Psalms 37:25
Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine. Luke 15:31
My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36
Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. Job 22:21
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24:1