The first thing I hated about this "Face Your Fears Retreat" was that it was called a "retreat." A "retreat" should be titled "Run From Your Fears." That would make sense, since "running" from a perceived threat is a biological imperative based on how our brains work. Say you are driving to a meeting while listening to Rush Limbaugh share his near-psychic, astonishing command of Barack Obama's private thoughts and most carefully-protected secret motivations when suddenly all you can see are brake lights on the highway ahead. Now you have a head filled with the fear that everything good in the universe is about to unravel if Obama remains President for yet another day and you are going to be late. The "alarm system" in your brain signals a sense of threat, and a cascade of adrenaline and cortisol courses through your body, causing you to grip the steering wheel with one hand while pounding on it with the other, your heart beat accelerating, blood pressure rising. There is nothing you can do to get out of this traffic. And nothing you can do to stop the cascade of stupid coming from your radio except turn it off. But you are compelled to listen because once that sense of threat is triggered and the brain is tuned to "threats are everywhere: must. stay. alert" everything Rush Limbaugh says begins to make perfect sense. And when that sense of threat persists with no relief, the body burns through all available energy and begins to crave something sweet. A rush of good feeling that only a sugary treat can provide, The next thing we know, we are surrounded by empty Entemann boxes with no memory of how we got there. And every day, in an undeniable and creepy way, we begin to look more and more like Rush Limbaugh.
So among the important points I picked up at this "retreat" is this gem: Talk radio can make you fat. Or - and this can really break your brain - make you feel so jacked up so much of the time that you simply live in fear. And one of the things we most fear is that we look fat. Here are some other things I learned at this retreat that people fear:
Science. And let's face it, this fear is entirely justified. Only smart people understand science. Not only does science involve facts, it involves facts that change completely once new facts are discovered. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are leading the way to a fact-and-science-free society in which faith replaces fear. About time!! When I was growing up we had to study science and that never came easily to me. If the Romney/Ryan ticket had won the White House, our fact-learning days would be behind us. All we would have to do is believe stuff. That would be awesome.
Being nominated by "friends and family" for What Not To Wear. Secret footage. Talking about your "style." Enough said.
Those deli meat slicers. One of the retreat participants actually witnessed a deli worker slice off one of his own fingers because he was in a rush to deliver a pound of perfectly sliced pastrami to a customer. I have to live with that image and add this potentially life-changing trauma to my list of things to fear. And now so do you.
That other people are thinking negative, critical thoughts about us. One woman shared - and shared and shared and shared - her obsessive worry that people view her as shallow, self-absorbed, boring, blind to flaws that are glaring to everyone else, and self-pitying. She fears that people are always thinking these things but she can't correct others' views about her without letting them know how insecure she feels. Okay, to be fair, the "retreat" leader did try to help. "Let me reassure you," she said kindly, "most people are focused on themsleves. They're worried about whether they look fat. They're worried about how they are coming across. They're really not that focused on you." To which the woman said "in that case I have to say that my worst fear is that no one is thinking about me.' Okay it was me.
Jude Treder-Wolff is a singer/songwriter, writer and comic who will be performing Crazytown: my first psychopath at the Actors Theatre Workshop in NYC in Jan & Feb, 2013. Her next show is still just a fertilized egg of a show - an ova with some kick-ass songs ready to go - called I've Been Looking Everywhere For You.