Shaking Off Fear
Although statistics vary, somewhere around 50 percent of humans are afraid of snakes, and 2–5 percent of people qualify for a diagnosis of ophidiophobia (extreme fear).
Some psychologists suggest that we learn to fear snakes through our own experiences. On the other hand, some propose a “biology of fear” that humans pass down genetically. But, then, how do we account for the humans who adore snakes? Some researchers suggest we’re conditioned in childhood to fear others—snakes, spiders, and humans, too—by the people around us and the stories our cultures tell.
Consider this: Of the 3,000 species of snakes on earth, only six percent have the capacity for significantly injuring or killing a human. For you readers who remain concerned, Dr. Steve Johnson from the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation assures us we’re nine times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from the bite of a venomous snake.
Of course, it’s important to be smart, such as wearing thick boots and staying on trails when hiking or being careful when reaching into a firewood pile outside our home. And yet, in general, our fear of snakes is wildly out of proportion with the reality of the risk. What’s more, human fearfulness leads to the widespread killing of snakes because of the perceived potential for conflict—not because of any behavior they have actually taken. Think about this for a second. That’s like killing a dog who has never bitten because she might bite. Or putting a cat “to sleep” because he might scratch—or offing a human because they might injure us in a car accident.
Resolution: I will evaluate my fears. I will seek out more about what I am afraid of. While remaining cautious about the safety of myself and those around me, I will shed any fearful assumptions that prove to be untrue or out of proportion.
Dropping Toxic Language
We extend our fear and unfair judgments through language, too. We might call someone a snake to mean they are untrustworthy or sneaky. Our reductionism suggests a single attribute for a whole host of unique beings just trying to live their own purposeful lives here on earth. Sadly, we do this a great deal. He’s a rat! She’s a pig! What, are you chicken?
Resolution: I will shed language that is unkind towards other beings. I will say what I mean, using clear communication rather than unfairly using animals—or humans—as insults.
Sloughing Our Skins
Although we may not be able to shed our physical skin in its entirety, we do shed millions of skin cells a day. Cleaning and brushing, then nourishing our skin with wholesome natural (and animal-free!) products not only feels good but is essential self-care. Likewise, being diligent about sunscreen can help ensure we see more new years in the future.
Resolution: I will care for my skin with love and acceptance—every scar, spot, and wrinkle, too—grateful for the protection it gives me and the sensations it helps me feel. I will be mindful about what I apply to my skin. I will help nourish the skin of others, too, dropping off lotion at domestic violence and homeless shelters near me. And I’ll commit to grooming my companion animals regularly so that their skin can thrive as well.
How we view other creatures and the stories we tell about them matters. New Year’s advice often encourages us to focus on the best possible version of me. By shedding stories, fears, and words that cause us to unfairly other those around us, perhaps we can help the earth community become the optimal expression of what it means to be a we.