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Growing into the Light
Cathi Woodward   Apr 19, 2011   Ethical Technology  

Fear is an opportunity to learn, anger is a motivator to bring about the change desired. Technology brings the connection and light that we need to grow into our potential.

Here’s a new definition for insanity: Still thinking the same thoughts and wondering why things don’t change.

“That’s the way it has always been” is no longer an excuse for such an outlook on life. Your thoughts determine everything, and not enough people realize that you can determine and control the direction of your thoughts to realize a different outcome. A lot of us get in a rut, thinking in a certain way, and don’t know how to get out of it and wonder why things don’t change, or get worse. 

Fear hurts, others, if you do not realize your own and face it, besides yourself, in your physical and emotional experience of this existence. We were taught fear as a means of control, by those afraid of the unknown. Religion has been particularly good at using fear to lead to the lowest common denominator and exemplifying hypocrisy in the process.

There is another way to use fear. I would cite Ray Kurzweil as an example. I am just guessing, but I am very thankful for what I assume to be his fear of death, to work so hard towards eliminating it. Although death is the great equalizer, everyone is allotted exactly one life to live, with the knowledge that it will come to an end.

Anger is another emotion that we were taught as negative and told to suppress. When it is anger that can be used so constructively when channeled as a motivator towards action that brings about positive change. Robin McGehee is an outstanding example of using the anger of being treating unequally in a ‘fair and equal’ society to work towards bringing about the ideal of equality for everyone.

Fear and anger are very real and powerful emotions that can be used in a positive and constructive manner, rather than what we have been taught, which is to suppress these most powerful emotions. It is OK to feel fear; it drives us to understand. And it is OK to feel anger; it can motivate us to make things better. When channeled properly, these human emotions are what have driven us forward.

Our evolution in technology dictates the evolution of how we live and think. And in order to keep pace with that exponential nature, we have a lot of growing up to do, fast. The electronic age brings light and connection. With that light and connection comes growth.


There is only what is in your control—how you look at things, or how you choose to think or feel about things, or act upon existing circumstances—that is under your control. Acts of nature are not, what others think, feel, say or do are not. And for most of us, the laws of physics are pretty much immutable. And yet, everything that each of us feel, say or do is not in isolation. We are coming to understand, in the quiet reflection of one’s own thoughts, our deepest connection to all of existence.

Once we realize that there is nothing to be afraid of, we are open to realize our own humanity, to laugh and love our own foibles, to be proud of our application of lessons learned, and even to be thankful for the tests of strength that allow our contributions toward the betterment of society.

Fear is an opportunity to learn, anger is a motivator to bring about the change desired. Technology brings the connection and light that we need to grow into our potential.

Now we can enjoy the responsible side of freedom just as much as freedom itself. Like the plant that breathes in carbon dioxide and provides oxygen, the honey bee that pollinates blossoms and provides honey, it is our responsibility to explore and offer our individual gifts, talents, and unique perspectives, and share with others for a more harmonious world.

Cathi Woodward is a Data Solutions Architect with many years experience doing data analysis and database design at the enterprise level. She is also a mom and a full-time student in the University of Life. 


This is beautiful and incredibly important.

“Anger is a motivator to bring about the change desired”...yes, absolutely.

“Fear is an opportunity to learn”...also yes, not least because fear is closely (even neurologically) related to curiosity. More obviously, fear keeps us alive, and more generally helps us to avoid catastrophe. Without it we die, fast. This being the case I have some reticence with regard to the suggestion that there is “nothing to be afraid of”. Perhaps better would be to say there is nothing we are *obliged* to be afraid of.

That being said, there are good reasons why we’ve been told to suppress fear and (especially) anger. Anger tends to make us violent: a good way to respond to stone age threats, not such a great idea in civilised society. And fear tends to make us panic: once again, a good way to respond to stone age threats, but often terribly counter-productive in modern life. In my view about the most important thing we can ever teach ourselves, and our kids, is how to channel these emotions so that they provide the right, and not the wrong, kind of motivation.

@Cathi and Peter
Thank you both.
Much of our media coverage gears us to “feel” but not to think through or resolve. Collectively we have come to see both anger and fear as ends in themselves rather than as parts of a process. Thank you for the reminder.

OK, I can see what you are attempting to communicate here, but you need to reflect on what you are saying and how you are presenting your case.

Do you honestly “think” that fear and anger, (the enemies of logic), are useful tools to make the world a better place? I think not, and it flies not only in the face of logic, but is in opposition to the teachings of humanities greatest philosophers and prophets.

No, what you must “surely” mean is to strive to understand fear and anger and learn to overcome these?

Anger and fear are contagious and destructive. “Anger is like holding onto a hot coal” - learn how to drop it. “Don’t let fear stop you!”, “you have nothing to fear but fear itself”

Fear and anger will lead us all to destruction, logic and determination will save the day/world?


What I was hearing was that 1.) fear and anger are natural emotions and 2.) rather than denying them we should see them as symptoms that lead us to insight. Perhaps a kind of emotional transformation happens then: we are able to use the underlying energy of the emotion for a constructive rather than destructive purpose.
Do you think that through enhancements we will someday be able to eliminate fear and anger?
“fear is closely (even neurologically) related to curiosity”
Can you say more about this neurological connection?

@dor…I need to look into that one, I may have been talking rubbish there. I had the impression that fear and curiosity involve adjacent areas of the amygdala or something like that, but I really can’t quote chapter and verse. At least at the psychological (as opposed to neurological) level there is clearly a link: fear, when it is not so intense as to completely paralyze or trigger a fight-or-flight response, will certainly trigger curiosity (as in: “just how much of a threat is EMP really?”)

@Cygnus…like I said, without fear we die. Try to imagine for a few minutes trying to live entirely without fear. OK you’d carry on breathing, you don’t need fear for that, but fear plays an essential role in just about everything else we do. It keeps us alive, for example by making us cautious.

What is determination anyway, when you break it down? A desire to achieve something? You envisage an outcome, and decide it’s something you want to happen. I believe that both fear and anger play an essential role especially in determination: anger provides the courage to overcome (“kill”) obstacles; fear helps us to avoid the pitfalls that could lead to failure.

Fear and anger are problematic in our modern world essentially because we are processing information at a subconscious level as if we were still in the stone age. All too often they make us focus on the wrong things, and sometimes they get completely out of control (as in the EMP debate). But logic alone…well it’s good for doing mathematics, but it won’t tell you how to live, let alone motivate you to put it’s prescriptions into practice. (And even to do mathematics you need some kind of motivation.)

@dor again…to eliminate fear we will need to outsource risk management to computers, and then there’s the question who guards the guardians. Anger perhaps we can do without more easily.

@ Dor..

Do you really need enhancements to overcome fear and anger? Or do you already possess all the tools you need?

@ Peter..

So you are saying that fear and anger are essential for determination?
If I put a gun to your head, would you feel fear? Would this be helpful where as logic and calm are not? OK, granted, if you were being chased by a bear, then primeval fear may stimulate you, but isn’t it adrenaline that makes you run faster? Or logic may even tell you to remain still and calm? It’s your choice really, and as always you are just “splitting hairs” to make your case.

Doubts which give rise to ill-conceived speculation results in fear thoughts, which are merely projections of future times yet to come, and have no basis in the present. Anger will not get you what you want or help you beat a rational opponent - “Continue to wax on, wax off!”

No Cygnus I’m not splitting hairs. I’m making essential points about the role that fear and anger play in our lives. It’s easy to talk the talk about how fear and anger are bad, but actually understanding them and dealing with them in practice is a different story.

Yes I would feel fear if you put a gun to my head. And no it wouldn’t necessarily be helpful, because indeed logic and calm are (usually) what’s need in that situation. What is that supposed to prove?

Yes it’s the adrenalin that makes us run faster. And you know what makes our bodies produce adrenalin? You got it: fear. By the way fear often paralyses, which in the gun and bear case can work quite well. Without fear you’d just “keep calm and carry on”, which isn’t necessarily the right approach either. Sometimes “fear thoughts” *do* have a basis in the present, and they help to keep us alive. And whether anger will beat a rational opponent very much depends on what kind of fight you’re engaged in. Usually some mixture of the two works best.

The problem with naive “fear is bad”, “anger is bad” clap-trap is that it confuses our thinking and leads us to deny we are experiencing these emotions when we are. Far better to embrace them, and try to channel them sensibly.

@ CygnusX1
“Do you really need enhancements to overcome fear and anger? Or do you already possess all the tools you need?”
For me, personally, it is an issue of ‘overcoming’ vs. ‘eliminating’ which is what I was reading here. I feel fear or anger, and then I try (though sadly do not always succeed) in overcoming those feelings.
For me, even with a regular prayer and meditation routine in my life, I have wiring I have to overcome. Sometimes my fear shows up as something else, like self-righteousness, or strong conviction or shame and then I need to overcome those as well. The less stress I feel, the better able I am to sort through rather than react.
I think freedom from fear and anger come from two different direction: external security and internal security. If someone is protected by privilege, then fear/anger is reduced or non-existent. I, for example, do not fear going hungry but many people do. Likewise, if someone can fully master detachment from want and desire, then fear/anger is reduced or non-existent.
Alas, I perhaps have too much of the former and too little of the latter to be as evolved as I’d like. But perhaps I’m a little bit typical?
One other dynamic is trust. I notice that the less trust I have in a given arena, the more fear/anger I experience in that area. For me, true at both the personal and corporate levels. I have a great deal of trust in my husband, so I never fear him. Conversely, I don’t have a lot of trust in our media and that leads me to have fear related to the rising influence of propaganda.
All of this can be overcome but it takes a lot of attention and intension.

@ Peter

It is only you who are confused about naivity and so called “clap-trap” - Once again you turn it on it’s head to suit your purpose, it is not about “channeling” fear and anger, it is about understanding and controlling these “negative and irrational emotions” - we are talking basic Buddhist/Christian teachings here not Batman?

@ Dor

So Love = trust, and the antithesis mistrust = fear?

Hate arises from anger and all of the above you mention, especially shame and self loathing. Bullying also arises from self-misunderstanding. Have you ever read the tale of “Sooty Sarah”? (you should be able to Google it, related psychology).

Of course the Buddha would also deny Love to overcome dukkha, (suffering also translated as stress).

When we are happy and at peace we are empowered and not stressed - so yes again to above.

Perhaps we should not “eliminate” fear or anger, because each arousal gives us opportunity to overcome? Practise makes perfect?

“Perhaps we should not “eliminate” fear or anger, because each arousal gives us opportunity to overcome? Practise makes perfect?”
yes and I think that was the point (or at least the point as I read it) of this article. Perhaps, too, what Peter means when he says to not deny it.
When we encounter these feeling (or any feeling really) it is an opportunity to learn from them. The feelings don’t have to drive our behavior; we can all be bigger than our emotions. That’s the main point of this that resonated with me.

As for practice makes perfect, for me not so much. : )
Rather than perfection, practice helps with appreciating the imperfection and being willing to forgive myself and others. This is an area I wonder about with mind clones and AGI. I don’t know if I can articulate it, but let me try. If we only record what we think of as the “perfect” parts of ourselves, are we not missing a level of texture that relates to our humanity? We have our blindspots and so our faulty thinking will filter through but it is still filtering. The great lessons in life (both personal and historical) often come out of our hurt, our pain, our wrong turns. Because we are frail, we strive to be more careful with others (if we are coming from love).
With AGI, if it does not know frailty, can it cherish? If it does not know imperfection, can it be forgiving of error? If it (or our mind-clones) are designed from what we think of as perfected states, is there room for growth? And is not our ability to grow emotionally as well as intellectually an essential part of who we are?
I don’t mean these as rhetorical questions. I really do wonder about it as it relates to engineering a being.

Thanks each and every one of you for taking the time to read, and then even more grateful for the comments.
I think dor pretty much nailed it on perfectly natural emotions and using them in a beneficial manner.
But everybody seemed to miss the we need to get it together and grow with our technology or it might out pace us.
Another recent article had to do with how much big brother knows about each of us. If we are not happy and comfortable with ourselves, then that type of information can be very unsettling.
If we have worked through our individual fears and angers, which will be different for all of us, then information like that causes no concern.
Technology is bringing about transparency at a faster rate than we as a society have matured. I think that is very beneficial at a collective level and helping to end the illusion of the power of money. But I don’t think we are ready for it individually yet.

A very good and interesting article.

@Cygnus: emotions such as fear and anger are not the enemies of logic, but complex and very logical cognitive tools developed by evolution.

A bunny who is not afraid of wolves would not live long enough to make other bunnies.

@ Dor and Cathi

Quote - “With AGI, if it does not know frailty, can it cherish? If it does not know imperfection, can it be forgiving of error? If it (or our mind-clones) are designed from what we think of as perfected states, is there room for growth? And is not our ability to grow emotionally as well as intellectually an essential part of who we are?”

Quote - ” But everybody seemed to miss the we need to get it together and grow with our technology or it might out pace us.”

Indeed there is no such thing as perfection, and the term causes much troubles in this world, especially with religious philosophies. “Practice makes perfect”, “striving for perfection” should be viewed and taken purely(?) as colloquialisms.

You are both absolutely correct about AGI design, and it is more fundamental than even this, as an AGI will not be able to fully understand without incorporating opposites, ie; Love & Fear, Joy & pain, clarity & confusion etc. One without the other has no meaning whatsoever, and so too with suffering. We need to understand suffering to attempt to overcome suffering, and to value life without suffering? These are the lessons for us, each and every one - “The meaning of life” is to understand “who we are?”, “who I am?”, to live happily and then I can die in peace, (or maybe not in the future, as the case may be? - but it matters not, it is a trivial matter !!)

This is why it makes absolute sense that an AGI should be evolved and engineered and introduced gradually, with graduation and intent and purposeful direction, (as the Universe will have it/permit it anyways!) This is why the “Global Brain”, interconnectedness of human minds and machine intelligences is of so much importance. What greater opportunity for corrective learning and feedback can we envision than this gradual development and integration?

What better way to develop an objective economic system without greed and selfishness, and develop a CEV to learn about our human emotions and sufferings, and help us to learn and overcome these? What better way to guide the human sociocultural global consciousness towards peace, harmony and unity? And the upside is we all learn about ourselves “collectively” and “individually” along the way !

However, watch out for those pesky selfish types who would attempt to protect the status quo, and through their own self-misunderstandings still strive for power, status, greed and wealth. I have faith and belief that the greater human sociocultural collective consciousness will prevail, despite any attempts by powerful individuals to steer it’s course to their benefits.

” We are all connected; To each other, biologically; To the earth, chemically; To the rest of the universe atomically” (deGrasse Tyson)

Sighs.. connectedness, (man, machine, whatever?) is such a wonderful thing, it is undeniabubble!

OM - Peace!

@ Giulio..

LOL.. But Bugs Bunny is never afraid, and is never usually angry.. he keeps his cool and always wins the day.. Whereas Yosemite Sam..? “oooh I haaate you rabbit!”

And what are doing in Budapest?


“Once we realize that there is nothing to be afraid of, we are open to realize our own humanity”

Actually, there is much to be afraid of but we have to minimize fear. Like, when we drive a car we dwell on the possibility of having an accident only so far as to keep the possibility in the backs of our minds so as to be sufficiently alert to the dangers of the road.

“There is much to be afraid of.”
But we do not *have* to be afraid of anything. Likewise, we do not *have* to minimise fear. When we drive a car we can choose whether or not to dwell on the possibility of having an accident, provided that we have trained ourselves well to be aware of and direct our thoughts.

I don’t usually dwell on the possibility of an accident when I am driving. I have a set of mental and behavioural habits that have served me well and kept me safe so far. One of those habits is to focus on any kind of “near-miss” or otherwise surprising/disturbing event and try to understand why it happened, how I responded and felt about it, what I have learnt from the incident and how I can apply that lesson immediately. It seems to me that this is a good way to manage risks while minimising fear. But again, this is not something I *have* to do: it’s something I choose to do.

(@CygnusX1…I know, I know: I’m splitting hairs again. But I don’t apologise for this. These issues are crucial so it is worth trying to extremely precise in the way we think and talk about them.)

Thank you, Mr. Wicks,

For your validation of my own point of view, having developed the same set of habits in terms of evaluating, learning and applying the lessons learned. Isn’t that what makes us ‘civilized’ after all?

Along with learning how to align our own thoughts, words and actions in order to serve ourselves and our fellow creatures on this beautifully amazing planet. Maybe a topic for a future article 😊

In appreciation,

I am jumping in late here, but I have to say - for me - that there are numerous things to be afraid of and many things to be angry about and both emotions are excellent motivators.

social protest is based on rage and fear, isn’t it?  Many transhumanist goals are based on fear and anger, right?  Like death -  aren’t we all angry that we’re going to die, and afraid of death as well?  And if we’re not, aren’t we angry and fearful that our friends will die?

I explored Buddhist non-attachment for a while but I got nowhere with that and I don’t find that attitude “productive.” 

I am also a fan of David Pearce, who wants to abolish suffering, and the reason I want to abolish suffering is because I hate it and I am afraid of it.

People are different so perhaps some people are capable of not being angry and not being afraid.  But other people, like me, are more like “Yosemite Sam”

I also like dor’s concern about AI—“if it does not know frailty, can it cherish?”

@Cathi…you’re welcome. 😊 it is amazing isn’t it…

@Hank…I tried Buddhist non-attachment and similar ideas, and while at first it made me very serene ultimately it made me depressed, probably because I was repressing anger and fear (not to mention desire and physical love). I’m much better now that I embrace them all.

A question though: do we need to embrace suffering as well? This is always a tricky one for me. I do think it’s important to foster an attitude of acceptance. But you also need to know what direction you want to go, and on this I take the utilitarian view: away from suffering, towards pleasure. (I’m also a fan of David Pearce but I don’t embrace what I understand, perhaps incorrectly, to be his *negative* utilitarian philosophy, exclusively emphasizing the elimination of suffering. Then we might as well go for Sascha Vongehr’s global suicide.)

Come to think of it, fear and anger *are* forms of suffering, aren’t they?

“But you also need to know what direction you want to go, and on this I take the utilitarian view: away from suffering, towards pleasure.”

I rather like Peter Singer’s “preference utilitarianism”. Good interview with him in the May issue of *The Sun* magazine.

@dor…We really do think in similar ways! I’m also a big fan of Singer. Pearce’s negative utilitarianism seems to inspire him to come up with some really creative ideas (such as trying to engineer away predatory behaviour in wild animals) but I wouldn’t want it penetrating our thinking more than it does already. I think the appeal of negative utilitarianism (including aspects of Buddhist teaching) partly resides in our genetic tendency to focus on threats more vividly and immediately than on opportunities. This helped keep our ancestors alive and reproducing, but it won’t help us to “grow into the light”.


A point to consider…It appears to me that fear and anger, as well as all other “emotional” states are not first order experiences. That is, we take in some kind of stimulus like a partner raising there voice, the stimulus is taken in, and then it is processed. I If say I experienced fear as a result of my partner raising their voice, it is only after my mind has processed the initial stimulus and decided upon fear as a response.

In this light, fear is not a necessary response. it is more of a habit. a habitual way of processing certain kinds of information or stimulus. Fear can inform one of how they are programmed to interpret the world. in my opinion this is inherently a-moral. neither right nor wrong. but it is in the way that we then act upon our response that has an impact on others.

as was stated, both fear and love can be harnessed for positive or negative transformation. inwardly and outwardly. And, as a point of process, it is obvious to me that fear, anger, hatred, love, compassion, etc… are all a secondary reaction to stimulus. we have then, the capacity to alter how we respond.

nice article,

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the extent to which we should be aiming for a future devoid of fear and anger. I agree that they are secondary responses in the sense described by Andrew, and that consequently we do have the capacity to alter not only how we allow them to affect our behaviour, but also to what extent we experience them at all.

For now, I think it’s best to focus on aligning our behaviour with our values, and using mindfulness techniques to prevent our emotions from getting in the way. (I have taken this idea mainly from Russ Harris’s The Happiness Trap, which I thoroughly recommend.) But in the long run I’m aiming for a future where fear and anger are utterly absent, and replaced by love, joy, peace, and physical well-being.

Thank you Andrew, and Peter once again 😊

Much truth in both comments, but I would like to offer this:

Any one of us individually is meaningless and purposeless without all of the others in our lives who give us definition as we in turn do the same for them.
The question has already been asked, how does one define love without hatred? Peace without fear?
We need all of them to define each, so I don’t think there will be physical well being without all of them.
This article was an attempt to re-purpose these very useful and human emotions as positive motivators.
The same argument can also be used to re-purpose love. There really is such a thing as loving too much and I will use the case of a privileged white male in our current society.  Most will never know the activism of fighting for equality. Whether it is equal pay or the right to marry the person of choice, regardless of gender. Without walking in those shoes, most white males are missing out on the privilege of processing the depths of emotion that balance and deepen feelings of love and compassion.
In closing, our feelings define us and guide us and I don’t believe fear and anger will ever be utterly absent, we will just learn to use them in a more constructive manner.
Thanks again,

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