Fear is a defense mechanism that living things have in order to stay away from people, animals, things, or situations that can cause harm. Fear is rooted in the anxiety of the unknown: if we see something that is new or different, it is natural for us to have some apprehension. The problem arises when fear infects a society and is biased against a minority, such as immigrants. For example, this happens when politicians and figures in the media exploit people’s anxieties and spread fear. Indeed, many anti-immigrant laws have been passed under the banner of being a defense mechanism.

In order to talk about the cure, we must understand the scope of the disease. In general psychological terms, if a person develops a kind of strong, irrational fear, this is called a phobia. Phobias are persistent fears of something or someone, usually with no basis in reality, that cause an urge to avoid this thing or person.

I know people with a phobia of spiders, mice, heights, and even something as harmless as cats, among other things (the actress Nicole Kidman has a phobia of butterflies, just to cite one example).

Having a phobia leads a person to have a limitation in his or her life. For example, a person with agoraphobia (fear of crowds) would not enjoy a concert. My brother has entomophobia (fear of insects) and has missed out on many camping trips because of his fear of these small creatures.

Each person reacts differently to his or her fears. Some are paralyzed, others run away, and others may react violently. It is also often classified as a phobia when someone feels hatred or rejection of something, such as xenophobia, which is the hatred of foreigners or strangers.

How can we overcome phobias? I had the privilege of meeting one of the most important Latin American psychologists of recent times: Bruno Stornaiolo. He told me that just as we learn to develop certain fears, we can unlearn them, and that the first step is to slowly approach the object that you are afraid of and try to understand it.

I know people who are afraid of learning about another culture, and others with a fear of learning another language or interacting with someone different. Such people only spend time with their peers, live in a closed social circle, and limit their life. The good news is that this can be overcome with only one courageous act: overcoming prejudices and seeking to learn about the other person.

If we fear the unknown, then the solution is to get to know other communities and attempt to learn their language, their customs, and their people. There is a famous saying that only what is known is loved.

Latinos have a moral obligation to be ambassadors of our community wherever we are. We must approach other communities and demonstrate our values, work, and contributions. We can build bridges to other cultures by letting them get to know us. You can take the first step– with a smile or a selfless and kind gesture, you can become an ambassador of your community.

Remember that in the end we are all children of the same Heavenly Father, so there is no need to fear. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18

Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas? dbarahona@lanoticia.com

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