Fear serves a good purpose — especially evolutionarily.
Hear a twig snap in the woods? Ready your weapon and heighten your senses.
The large animal bristling its hair at you? Bearing its teeth? Back off!
Walking home at night and hear footsteps behind you? Get to somewhere public and call a cab.
But now, in many ways, fear is often extremely irrational.
Job interview? Cold sweat, racing pulse, incoherent sentences.
First flight? Paralyzing anxiety, trembling hands, hyperventilation.
Very beautiful woman talking to you? See above.
Isn’t it interesting?
We’ve adapted and grown so much — intellectually and technologically — but our brains haven’t fully caught up. And maybe that’s okay that our little amygdalas still ring alarm bells when the black car with black windows and out-of-state plates has followed us for over an hour.
But, most times, this fear just obstructs us.
These fears directly crush our joy — or our pathways to joy.
Job interviews, flights to new places, and approaching people we are interested in talking to (beautiful women or otherwise!) are huge opportunities for us.
When we feel these irrational fears, it helps sometimes to step back, stop, and apply some base logic.
“Once, tens of thousands of years ago, this feeling made sense. It protected me from danger like animals, cliffs, or pain. It was sensible. This job interview is no real threat. Just like when a waitress comes and asks my order, I answer. Like when someone asks what I do, I tell them. They’re only going to ask me questions, and I’m going to just answer them. There won’t really be a wrong answer to anything. They cannot hurt me. I am not going to feel any pain. It’s just a conversation.”
I found I was able to overcome many different challenges — like interviews and flights — with this sort of reasoning.
Another approach I’ve taken is to reframe my bodily reaction.
You aren’t NERVOUS. You are OVEREXCITED.
Take the excitement and conscientiously focus on just slowing down.
And really, isn’t that true? You feel much the same way when you are incredibly, manically excited about something!
You shake, maybe sweat, laugh inappropriately, and your heart is flying.
“I’m not really nervous about talking to this beautiful Czech woman — I’m giddy. It’s because I’m excited. Let’s just stay very focused on being more slow and deliberate so the initial zing of energy fades out.”
Fear is mostly maladaptive to us in modern times. It often wrecks our enjoyment and opportunities.
What are one of your “modern” fears?
Gas station bathrooms?
Leave a comment!
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These are distillations from my coming book “YouDaimonia: the Ancient Philosophy of Human Flourishing.”
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