Bird Faces Its Fear: Bird faces the fear of the seemingly inevitable actions of instinct

 In Art & Philosophy

When I first completed this picture, I was first ‘drawn’ to see the cat; because it is the biggest thing in the drawing and also because I felt attracted to its ‘cuteness’. However, for the bird, the cat is far from cute; it is an existential threat. Even so, in the stance of the bird I can see that it is alertly standing its ground; it has decided to face its fear. That is the impression I got from the drawing, so that is what I named it.

This for me is a description of how human relations can often be shaped. I know for myself that I have learned to be vigilant for the unconscious emotional outbursts of others, which often come from their need to protect themselves. The need to protect oneself is an instinctual one. An instinctual reaction to something is a reaction that is unconscious. It doesn’t take into account rationalising questions such as: ‘Am I actually in danger?’, ‘Does this person actually mean me harm?’, ‘Could I be mistaken?’ etc. Because there is this immediate sense of danger (i.e. to the body, to the identity, to one’s sense of ok-ness) the body goes into flight, fight or freeze. There is an urgency that makes it feel like there is not enough time and so there is a swift unconscious reaction.

Now I am asking myself: but how does that tie in with the cat’s instinctual view of the little bird?
Well, I think that it is clear that the cat is fat and therefore in no need of immediate sustenance. The cat’s instinctual urge to ‘go for’ the bird is a merely instinctual one based on the need for survival, even though he is no danger of going hungry.
And when people unconsciously act on their instinctual urge for survival (of their body, identity, ok-ness) they might just lash out with words, intimidation, physical violence or passive aggressively through gossip or manipulation.

In regard to the bird’s decision to stand its ground; it is moving from the instinctual urge of survival to consciously face its fear. And to me the bird looks firm and grounded. However, this is just a drawing which to me, mirrors a human situation, as I am assuming that animals do not have the faculty of conscious choice. Because what fat cat and little bird don’t have, and we do, is the ability to observe ourselves and others consciously. This gives us the ability to choose.

To reiterate, I am writing this to portray how human interactions and relationships can be shaped by perceived feelings of being threatened. So this is not about the sad fact of human experience and interactions that are shaped by actual violence and abuse. There is a very fundamental difference, in that danger in the latter (to body, sense-of-self) is actual, whereas in the former is it perceived only. And perception happens in yourself.
The unconscious shaping and holding of negative beliefs and perceptions about oneself and others will lead to unconscious projection onto others and also onto oneself. And because it is unconscious, one will unconsciously react to it instinctively, as if being attacked.
However, as human beings we have the privilege of consciousness giving us the ability to observe, rationalise (what is actually happening) and choose how we live; how we treat ourselves and others. We are not trapped in biology, instinct, history (personal or global) or even genetics unless we believe that is all we are. The bird in the drawing, even though seen as prey and so much smaller than the towering cat (its fear mirrored) manages to know itself as more and can stand its ground.

So when you feel yourself reacting instinctively, take a moment. A moment, however small, can be all it takes to go from instinctive human animal to conscious human being.

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