Category Archives: Fear

The Dentist Part Two

 

Dentistry

Dentistry

I wrote in March about my dental phobia.  I home with a temporary crown.  The last three months has been a dental black hole.  I haven’t flossed, hardly brushed, and stuck with mouthwash.  My cleaning last month wasn’t too bad, but only because Barb, my hygienist, is the best.  I made an appointment for the crown after stalling for five months.

Thursday was the day and I have been something  of a mess for a week.  Worse, I was scheduled to have it done two weeks ago and came down with a bad cold and had to reschedule.  That prolonged my agony.  In defense of the dental office, everyone there is just great.  They are nice, competent, and do their best to make every visit as painless as possible.  I have been a patient there for over twenty years.

Steve Law is the dentist.  A Minnesota boy, he went to St. Olaf College in the same town as Carleton College, that Susan, my stepdaughter,attended.  He is a nice guy and a musician as well.  Today he had trouble getting the old crown off.   He drilled, pried, pulled, drilled, pried, and drilled some more.  After he got all the gear out of my mouth I asked him why he didn’t use Channel Lock pliers instead.  He said something about making it more comfortable.  I do not equate the dentist’s office with comfort, despite their apologetics.

The assistant was also good, and funny as well.  I just do not remember her name.  I should remember, she has worked there as long as my tenure as a patient.  I have a temporary crown she installed which will fall out before the next appointment.

I have lived with dental post-traumatic stress disorder for almost sixty years.  Carol is a therapist and has offered to help, but I just cannot face dealing with the anxiety of reliving dental agony.  At least the suffering is a good contrast with the good times I usually have.  How can we know the good without experiencing the bad?  Why does it have

Aggression and Fear

baby fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.

Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, on and on.  These acts, if horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.

The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.

Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.

Life has always been marked by violence.  We are wired to deal with it.  Adrenalin, anger, the need to assemble in groups for mutual protection, all are part of our DNA.  In watching elementary school children in a park, I was always struck by the boy’s tendency to pick up a stick at the first opportunity.  The girls would respond to aggression from boys,  but tended not to initiate aggressive behavior.

Agression

Agression

Are the boys hunters or warriors, or are those behaviors modifiers of the same thing?  I am currently reading about Ancient Greece.  The tales are of war or the challenges of dealing with a dangerous world.  Very few cultures have not been violent to some degree.  There is always peril, whether from the neighboring tribe or the saber-toothed tiger.

Fear has always been a part of life.  Today, despite all the turmoil in the world, in this country we enjoy one of the safest countries and times ever.  The prevailing mindset, however, is fear.  Growing up in the 1950s I ran all over town and always walked the seven blocks to school.  Today children are accompanied by an adult when on the street.  It is more and more unusual to see unaccompanied young teenagers out on the street.

Because of some events in my early childhood, I have never felt safe.  I always have a strategy for dealing with a threat (back against the wall).  I have never in my threescore and ten years had to deal with a threat.  Because of my impulsivity and deep-seated anger I have sometimes initiated aggression, but usually calm down before getting myself in big trouble. I do seem to be getting better at letting go of the anger.

Is that the answer?  Aggression breeds aggression?  Especially with childhood abuse?  The old Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue, is an example.  Father knew he would abandon his son, so he named the boy Sue in order for him to be abused and have to fight back to survive.  Abandonment and the target of aggression became that boy’s life.  He grew up to be angry and aggressive.  The song implies that is a good thing.  It is not.

When children grow up in a loving, fairly safe home with the knowledge they are loved and respected, they are able to deal with threats in a healthier way, knowing they will always have a refuge.  We need to provide love, compassion, support, and respect for all children.  A lot of that exists here, but how about the Sudan?  It is a sad world.  Work to end injustice and violence everywhere.  Foster compassion.

The Dentists

At the Dentist

At the Dentist

I have trouble with the dentist’s office.  It all goes back to my high school days.  My parents were bad at taking care of their teeth and I did not get good habits from them. In high school my teeth were riddled with cavities.  So, off to the dentist’s office in Grand Junction.

It was the 1950’s, so the dental arts were not like today.  The dentist was probably well into his 60’s, and his art was behind even those times.  He did orthodontics as well as general dentistry, and  he liked to show off his work.

He had a number of display cases filled with plaster casts of deformed mouths he had worked on for the last 50 years or so.  They belonged in a circus sideshow. They were horrible and fascinating, with crooked teeth, missing teeth, teeth that had grown the wrong direction, and deformed jaws.  A few skulls and skeletons would have completed the collection.

He had an old fashioned dentist’s chair that had a porcelain basin with swirling water for you to spit the blood into.  The worst part was the drill.  It was a large apparatus with the motor at the base.  From the motor a series of leather belts and pulleys ran up the arms to the drill.  I am surprised it was not operated by a treadle.

That drill was slow and noisy.  Today, the drill has a high pitched whine.  His drill vibrated, made a grinding sound, and those leather belts turned on their wheels making the clumsy drill turn.  He did a lot of drilling, or torture.  I can still hear the noise and feel the pressure and the pain.  No anesthetic, ever.  That went on for several visits with gutta percha temporary fillings between appointments that always fell out, exposing sensitive places.

After the interminable drilling came the gold fillings.  The lower molars had the largest cavities, so he cast gold inlays. He then cleaned out the holes with that damned drill, applied an adhesive and installed the fillings.  He used a punch and mallet and hammered them in.

The upper molars had smaller cavities so he used gold foil.  He would pack some foil into the cavity, then use some kind of tool that was like a manual impact driver.  Click, wham.  Click, wham.  Click, wham.  That repeated what seemed like thousands of times.  When he got enough foil in the cavity, out came the punch and mallet to really pack that gold in.  This lasted for weeks.  The good part?  Most of those fillings are still there.

I tended to avoid dentists after that experience until I had to.  In my middle thirties my impacted wisdom teeth had to come out.  There was anesthetic along with the cutting, prying, hammering,  pain, and wrenching.  I developed a dry socket that had to be packed and tended until it finally healed.  I had more dental trauma with that process.

I did start getting intermittent dental care, but not enough brushing, flossing, and cleanings.  Every time I opened my mouth to brush it reminded me of all that time in the chair back in High School.  I developed gum disease and was referred to an oral surgeon.  I made the appointment, drove into the parking lot, turned off the ignition, sat there, turned the ignition on, and drove away.

Now I go to get my teeth cleaned and have work done at Metropolitan Dental in downtown Denver.  The dentists are good, I know them, they know me and my phobias,so we get along.  Barb, my hygienist, is just the best.  I get chided, told to use a Sonicare or a Water Pic, but the sounds and the feelings I get from them bring all the old trauma back.  I brush and floss irregularly, and get along.  I have lost one tooth.

At my last visit I found I need to have a crown replaced and went into a tailspin, hardly able to brush at all.  I still have not made an appointment.  I have post traumatic stress disorder from dentists.  I think it is time for some PTSD therapy.

Terror

Paris Terror

Paris Terror

The events in Paris this week bring back memories of all the terrorist incidents we have lived through for many years.  Why?  Why kill innocent people for some cause they have nothing to do with, or they are only making fun of political situations?

Terrorism works.  The goal of terror is to put a spotlight on a cause, to get people emotionally involved in an issue they would not usually care about.  They become passionate and affiliate themselves with the side of the conflict they agree with.  The middle ground, where truth usually resides, becomes obscured as fear and rage take over.

Most people are reasonable and just want to live and let live, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, black, brown, white, wealthy, middle, or working class.  Terrorism divides people into opposite camps, where people view others as suspicious and dangerous.  The others must be controlled, removed, or eliminated.  There is no longer any room for dialog.

This depiction is somewhat extreme.  We have seen decades of terror and hate end in Ireland as the two sides finally stopped the killing mostly out of sheer exhaustion and the work of excellent negotiators.  An example of where terror achieved its end was in 1950s Algeria, when years of bombings, repression, and hate in Algeria and France ended with Algerian independence.

The Battle of Algiers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Algiers  a movie about that struggle, illustrates how terror works.  It has become either a textbook of terrorism or a lesson for those who wish to end the process of fear and hate.  Algeria was a French colony with a large population of relatively wealthy French amid a large population of mostly poor Muslim Arabs who resented French rule.

An Arab liberation movement began a campaign of terror, bombing public places where French people gathered.  The French army responded with a policy of repression.  People were arrested and tortured, curfews imposed, matters escalated and the bombings began in France, especially Paris.  The polarization, radicalization, and repression escalated as well, finally ending when the French government under DeGaulle granted independence to Algeria.

The parallels with Israel and Palestine are obvious.  The situation there is so divided that many view any peaceable resolution as unlikely, at least in the short run.  In Europe, the parallel is with Muslims living in a secular culture that are marginalized and discriminated against, just as the Catholic minority was in Northern Ireland.

The reasons for terror are not only religion.  Religion often becomes the justification for acts of terror, but race, class, ethnicity, and alienation are often the underlying reasons.  What is needed is tolerance, dialog, and human connection.

Keep calm and carry on.

 

 

Part Three, the Keystone XL Pipeline

Pipeline Construction

Pipeline Construction

When I was growing up in Fruita, Colorado in the 1950’s, the El Paso Natural Gas Company built a 26″ natural gas pipeline from north to south through Western Colorado. In flat country, laying a pipe is fairly straightforward.  To lay a pipeline, dig, lay pipe, weld, wrap, and backfill.  In the Colorado Plateau, the pipeline not only goes from point to point, it goes up and down.

North of Fruita, The line had to go over Douglas Pass. As Colorado passes go, it is no big deal.   Not that high, but near the top there is steep and unstable ground famous for landslides.  The trenchers, welding machines, side-boom tractors handling pipe, and bulldozers; all had to be winched up and down the mountainside.  That is a slow, expensive process. To us in Fruita, it meant that our little town had lots of pipeliners for several weeks.

I mostly saw the pipeliners in Hill’s Cafe, where we often had dinner. The stereotype is that pipeliners are a wild bunch, but we didn’t see it in the cafe.  They were quiet, well-behaved, some prayed before eating, and I liked them.  After all, if you are from Bald Knob, Arkansas, how wild can you be?

That pipeline brings gas from Wyoming, Western Colorado, and Eastern Utah to markets in Texas and the southwest, including California. To my knowledge, it has few problems and quietly does its job.  I think that pipeline has shaped my thinking about pipelines in general.

Today there is much oil and gas development in North Dakota and Alberta. A pipeline network exists to deliver crude oil from there to the refinery complex on the Gulf Coast.  It can’t deliver all that is being produced.  Proposed is a new line, the Keystone XL Pipeline that would run west of the existing line, picking up crude from the Williston Basin in North Dakota as well as the synthetic crude from the Alberta tar sands.

There is a lot of opposition for several reasons. One reason is fear of leaks.  Big spills, contamination, fire, ground water contamination, and all the risks that go with moving lots of nasty stuff that burns.  That Alberta synthetic crude is even nastier than regular crude.  Its carbon footprint is much higher than oil from traditional sources.  It is thick and has to be heated to separate it from the sand.  Most of the crude oil refined here in Denver is tar sand oil.

Oil Car Train

Oil Car Train

The fact is that as long as demand for petroleum products stays high, that Alberta crude will go south, but in rail cars if the pipeline isn’t built.  Here in Denver, there are many tank car trains headed south, competing with coal trains for right of way.   In the upper Midwest there is so much oil traffic that farmers are having difficulty shipping their grain.  Pipelines are safer than rail cars for shipping petroleum.

Some of the opposition is for environmental reasons. Tar sand crude is bad.  Pipelines are bad.  Fossil fuel is bad.  All true.  The solution is not stopping pipelines, but reducing demand.  How to reduce demand?  Make fossil fuels more expensive with higher taxes.  Use the tax money to develop alternative energy and transportation.  Build rails not freeways.  Tell that to Republican legislators.

In the meantime, I think the pipeline is the best alternative until our energy policies change.

Unjustified Causes Part Two: GMO’s

GMO-Dangers-300x215In this part two of my series on spurious causes I address the campaign against genetically modified organisms. The  GMO’s most people are concerned about are in foods.  Despite an overwhelming body of research confirming that GMO’s are safe, there is a huge movement opposing their use in foods.  The illustration at left is an example of truths and falsehoods mixed together.

This brings me back to a common theme underlying many causes: fear. I would like to think most fearmongers are Republicans; they have Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.  In these three popular campaigns, however, many of the adherents are mostly liberal in their thinking.  It just illustrates that I am the only truly rational person around.

So, here we go on applying my advanced reasoning powers to examining how the international agribusiness conspiracy is systematically poisoning the world population, producing hordes of mutants ready to run amok killing the innocent. Oh, wait, I have seen too many zombie movies.

I think Anti-GMO activists have also seen too many Zombie movies as well. There are no studies showing any adverse effects on humans or livestock from GMO’s.   In the U.S., most of the corn, and soybeans produced are GMO varieties.  No ill effects.

The opponents cite studies that have been refuted or make claims with no scientific basis. They are also concerned that there may be problems from GMO’s in the future.  Well, folks, we are in the future.  These products have been around for more than 20 years in many cases.  No zombies yet.

The health food industry has jumped on the no GMO bandwagon in a big way. They accuse big agribusiness of dangerous practices for profit, but they sell No-GMO products with big markups and scared people who have bought into the hype into paying inflated prices.

The justified fear of adverse health effects from pesticides and herbicides in the diet and drinking water has spilled over into the GMO movement. The anti-pesticide movement has strong scientific support.  The anti-GMO movement has none, but the fear spills over.

Marketers are exploiting the fear by putting organic foods and No-GMO foods In the same category. Who loses?  The Whole Foods customer.  The customer is subjected to the classic propaganda technique of the half-truth.  Pesticide residue bad, true;  GMO’s bad, false.  The association is what sticks in people’s minds, scientific fact notwithstanding.  This technique is one the Nazi’s used to justify killing Jews.  Good people were taken in.  Good people are beIng taken in today for profit, not genocide

Three Unjustified Political Causes

Gas Rig in Western Colorado

Gas Rig in Western Colorado

There are three causes, fracking, GMO’s, and the XL pipeline that to me are spurious. There is a lot of hysteria around the issues with little critical examination taking place.  People seem to be taken in by bad science, bad reporting, and demagoguery.

Fracking is an old technology that expanded when horizontal drilling along with fracking opened up huge amounts of territory to oil and gas extraction. The oil and gas was there all along, geologists knew about it, but it was trapped in what the industry calls tight strata, mostly shale.

Traditionally, oil and gas has come from fairly porous rock that allows the oil and gas to migrate to the wells. Tight strata is not porous, and the oil and gas tends to stay in place.  hydraulic fracturing breaks the rock, allowing the oil and gas to move to the well. Fracking is not new technology.  It was being used around my home town in the 1950’s.  The big change came with horizontal drilling, hugely expanding the amount of rock that can be fractured from one drill hole.

If there is impervious rock above the area being fractured, the only route for the oil and gas to escape is up the drill hole. Done right, the oil and gas go into a pipeline or a tank with no surface contamination.  The problem is that it is often not done right.

BP Spill

BP Spill

It’s been clear for a long time, reinforced by the big BP spill in the gulf, that drilling so often not done right. Oil companies are infamous for lying, cheating, and stealing.  They get away with it in part because nobody knows what they are doing.  Meters are bypassed, mineral rights owners, including the Government, are underpaid, horizontal wells go outside their boundaries, and proper drilling methods are bypassed.

The big BP spill in the gulf happened because a defective blowout preventer was put in service. No one is going to know, right?  It is a mile under water.  We all know and BP is going to owe billions.

The problems we are seeing with fracking, groundwater contamination, flaming water faucets, polluted water dumped into streams, all come from cheating. With fracking, drillers cheat by not properly lining the drill holes.  The correct method is to pump concrete between the side of the hole and the smaller steel casing that carries the oil and gas to the surface.  It requires high pressure pumps and a lot of concrete.  Done right, it works just fine.  But, it is a long way down that hole and you cannot stand beside the wellhead and tell what was done.  What can be done is to sample ground water and air.  If there is contamination, it was not done right.  Incidentally, our old friend Halliburton is the big oil well service company that does much of the well lining.

Until alternate energy is much bigger than it now is, we need oil and gas, and domestic production is preferable to foreign imports. Otherwise, turn off your air conditioning, junk the furnace, and sell the car.  So, let’s regulate.   We need monitoring for contaminants and on-site inspectors.  All that is done in construction, but the oil and gas industry has avoided most oversight.

Fear is the reason for the opposition to fracking. People don’t understand the technology, big oil rigs along subdivisions and water trucks on the highway are imposing.  They see news reports that show flaming faucets

Flaming Faucet

Flaming Faucet

without explaining the cause other than blaming fracking.  Flaming railroad oil train wrecks.  Pipeline leaks in California.  The oil and gas industry has a public relations problem.

The biggest fracking failure was 45 years ago in Western Colorado. The government detonated a 40 kiloton nuclear bomb down a drill hole near Parachute, Colorado.  Lots of natural gas was liberated, but it is radioactive.  People just will not accept radioactive gas coming into their homes.  I think this long ago event is what started fracking fear.

Unless you get around on horseback or bicycle, stay off the power grid and light, heat, and cool your house with renewable energy, you need oil and gas.  With regulation, it can be safe.  We can then put more time and energy into developing clean energy.

Parts two and three will examine GMO food and the XL Pipeline.  Stay tuned.

Incident on Mosca Pass

Mosca

Mosca Pass View

I was camping on Mosca Pass, the first mountain pass over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of well-traveled La Veta Pass.  From the Wet Mountain Valley to the summit of the pass is a good road that provided access to an abandoned fire lookout tower just below the summit.  The road is closed from the summit down to the visitor center in Great Sand Dunes National Park.  The road washed out too many times and was abandoned for vehicle travel years ago.

I went there to see the area and find solitude, a scarce thing anywhere near the Front Range cities.  I drove up a short spur road to a good campsite with fine view.  There was even some firewood at the fire ring.  There was no one within miles.  No traffic, just an apparently unoccupied ranch about a mile down the road.

I ate dinner, read until dark and turned in.  I like to sleep outside to see the stars and feel the wind.  My new sleeping bag kept me comfortable, and I went right to sleep.  A few hours later I got up to pee and decided to take a look around.  Looking east and south there are two intermittent creeks about 1/4 mile apart running through a big open park, with mountains all round.  There was a fine view, even during the dark of the moon with only starlight, so I went that way.

The flat spot where I camped ends and dropped down to the open areas not far from my bed.  I walked that way and stepped into a hole right at the edge.  I pitched forward into a big bush lower down and in some rocks.  Head down, butt in the air, feet thrashing, arms entangled, it took a while to free myself.  I had to scramble on hands and knees back up to level ground and in the process lost my glasses.

My forearms were scraped, punctured, and bleeding. I had a scrape on my nose, several bruises, and two big abrasions on my knee.  I had walked out there in the middle of the night with only a t-shirt, underpants, and my shoes on.

Finding the campsite was a little hard.  My dark green truck was backed in between some trees and I didn’t have my glasses on, making it hard to find in the dark.  I went back to bed scared and angry at myself.  The pain from the knee scrapes kept me awake for most of the rest of the night.

I laid there thinking of what could have happened.  If I had injured myself so I couldn’t drive, there is no knowing when someone would find me.  I was well off the road, no cell phone service, almost no traffic, and almost no clothes on.  In Colorado there are several stories every year about someone not returning from a solo trip, the body found days or months later.

What was I thinking?  I obviously was not thinking at all.  People tell me I was lucky.  Maybe so, but I believe I was stupid, just like the others who did not return from a solo trip.  Carol asked me where my flashlight was.  It was in my pack, where it belongs.

In the morning, I looked at my sore knee, cut arms, bloodstained t-shirt, and went to look for my glasses.  No luck; after all I didn’t have my glasses on.  How was I going to see them?  There was nothing to do but have breakfast and get on with my trip.

I had no trouble seeing on the back roads, reading, and looking at the scenery, but reading road signs was pretty tough.  I haven’t gone so long without glasses since I was in the fourth grade.  Two days later I was home and could see again. I spent a day getting a spare pair of glasses fixed and having a grass seed washed out of my ear.

It has taken me a while to sit down and write this.  I have more to say about my trip, so stay tuned.

Fear

0613 fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, or cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.

 

Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

 

Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, it goes on and on.  These acts, while horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.

 

The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.

 

Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.  We are however, deluged with depictions of violence.

 

Political groups use fear to get support for their agendas.  Fear of economic collapse, of attacks by armed liberals, of rampant gang violence, of invasion by militant Canadians wielding hockey sticks, of invading Chinese hordes. Oh, and let’s not forget aliens and Zombies.   I may be a bit silly, but you only have to watch the news to see the fear.

 

Perhaps the most fearful group is the gun owners.  The gun literature is filled with articles on how to defend one’s home or auto from armed intrusion.  Sales of AR-15 rifles with 30 round magazines are booming (15 rounds in Colorado).  There is a general ammunition shortage as the hoarders buy almost everything on the shelves.  The fear generated by the gun press is feeding on itself, fear begetting fear.  Here are all these manly men buying guns and ammo to protect themselves from…nothing.

 

Another popular way to generate fear is with a conspiracy theory.  New World Order, International Jewish Conspiracy, International Communist Conspiracy, the Illuminati, Masons, Catholics. It goes on and on.  The fun thing is that you can make up a conspiracy, write about its nefarious aims, and watch it take a life of its own.  Net result, more fear.

 

The source of fear is inner.  Guns, politics, survival hoarding, nothing will alleviate the inner fear except dealing with the feelings generating fear.  Those feelings usually are a product of an abusive childhood.  Only confronting the feelings and working through the damaged thinking will work.  AR-15’s just don’t help.

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