The Fear Voice

“A Bad Thing Might Happen!”

You’re sitting at a gambling table, and the stakes are high. If you win, you win big – but if you lose, you’ll lose your house, your car, all your savings, everything. The Fear Voice says “don’t do it, something bad will happen!”

Notice what the fear voice doesn’t ask. It doesn’t ask the odds. Change it up so that you have a 1 in 1,000 chance of losing and a 999 out of 1,000 chance of winning. The voice stays the same. It imagines the bad thing; it doesn’t calculate the odds.

But it’s even deeper. The fear voice gets so deep that it doesn’t even know what the bad thing is, it just assumes there could be one.

That same game could have a 999 out of 1,000 chance of winning and the other 1 in 1,000 you just don’t get anything – in other words, it’s win or neutral, with no chance of actually losing anything. The fear voice still doesn’t want you to play. It might get drowned out at that point – but it might not.

Fear is something that wants to keep you safe. That’s its only goal. It doesn’t care about what you gain; fear can’t see those things. Fear is binary – you’re alive or you’re not. If you’re alive, fear is doing a good job. Which means fear doesn’t have your best interests at heart, even though it believes it does and tries to convince you of it, too.

Fear doesn’t calculate odds. It can’t. Fear doesn’t evaluate risk versus reward. It just imagines the risk, as big as can be, and tells you to run the other way.

There are moments when you need that fear; these are the moments when fear accurately describes reality. If you ever find yourself alone in the northern Canadian wilderness at night, you go ahead and let fear drive for a bit while you find shelter and avoid bears. But fear isn’t tuned for the job market or the stock market. Fear isn’t calibrated for online dating or recreational sports. In other words, fear doesn’t accurately describe reality as most of us experience it.

If there were an actual person following you around, verbalizing the things your fear voice tells you, you would quickly think that person was insane. So don’t give that voice any more control over your life just because it’s internal.

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