It’s day 13. A perfect day to discuss fear.
After all, in our modern-day world, skyscrapers still skip from the 12th to the 14th floor when it comes to elevator buttons. The number 13 has long carried a plethora of folklore and fairy tales surrounding the origin of the number’s harsh sentence. It’s irrational to be sure, and yet somehow has gripped entire cultures in fear.
In as much as most of us carry some superstitious notions or quirks like the number 13, leaning ladders, salt over the shoulder, knocking on wood, or broken mirrors; we also attach all sorts of equally irrational fears to our everyday lives.
The difference is, we call those ones anxieties.
While I know personally about the sometimes-crippling effects of anxious thoughts, in my moments of peace and calm, I’m able to realize that anxiety and irrational fear often aren’t all that different. Therein lies the problem.
If you will take 10 extra steps to avoid walking under a leaning ladder; you have clearly attached an urgency and fear to a potential outcome that is unlikely to happen. And in this case, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it most assuredly will not happen. I’m fairly certain there isn’t a lingering spirit hanging from the 7th rung of that same ladder you’ve put up your Christmas lights with for the last decade.
Still, we do these things. And, we’ve done them our whole lives.
As kids, our irrational fears began with “the dark” or “the basement” (sorry kid, I ratted you out). And of course, there were zero factual bases for those fears and yet somehow, there they were. Ironically too, those same fears seem to have transcended generations.
As an adult, living in a pandemic isn’t exactly the easiest time to avoid irrational fear, either. After all, the television and internet are absolutely swarming with piranhas attempting to exacerbate your deepest terrors, because, you guessed it, when you’re afraid, you will consume. It’s a supplier’s most reliable formula; create fear and addiction, and consumption will surely follow. And consumption, as we know, equals profits.
Pandemics seem almost perfectly catered to prey on humanity’s greatest psychological weakness: fear of the unknown. ~ Mark Manson
And while I will not suggest that taking the mask-off, IDGAF approach to Covid-19 is logical; neither is fear of the unknown, or fear of things very unlikely to happen.
In my own personal experience last year, the virus created an anxiety (a.k.a. irrational fear) of impending death. The worst parts of the news became, in my mind, the most probable outcome.
However, as I struggled with my own certain demise, new ones gradually seeped into my life. When I woke up each morning, it might start with, “Was today the day that the virus would decimate me and my family?”. But then, I’d start to worry about the many other things I had to do that day, the many other obligations I had to live up to, the many other people I had to accommodate, and the work I had to accomplish to earn an income.
And as I soon as I’d sit down to tackle one of them, my irrational fears around all those that weren’t being done would flood my mind. And naturally, I would assume the worst case outcome as the most likely. That today was the day all my clients fired me; today was the day my kids told me I was a horrible father; today was the day my whole family would tell me that I was letting them down; today was the day all our finances, jobs, and lives would fall apart. Yeah, seems logical.
And there are days where I still feel those things; where retreating into a cocoon of isolation seems like the best way to overcome. Which of course, it isn’t.
So then, what do we do about it? Well, the answer seems like a trite cliché.
Do one thing that scares the shit out of you.
Really, this is it. Of course, the challenge is being honest with yourself about what is actually scaring you. This may be the hardest part; admitting fears we suspect may be irrational is not only difficult, but those fears are often buried in our subconscious. Taking time to contemplate, meditate, or be self-aware enough to identify those fears is step one. Then you actually have to overcome them.
What fear will you tackle?
Today’s Challenge: Less Irrational Fear.
Identify your fear, then minimalize it tackling it head on.
SPOILER: The outcome isn’t as bad as you think.
P.S. The Mark Manson article, in full: https://markmanson.net/the-fear-of-the-unknown