THE POWER OF FEAR.
“Make everything bright and beautiful about you. Cultivate a spirit of humour. Enjoy the sunshine”
Baird T. Spalding
You walk into a dimly lit room. You see a snake on the floor. What do you do? Fear, scream, sweat, panic; call you neighbor to come and kill it? Your neighbour comes, turns the light on, and it’s only a rope on the floor! Was the fear real? Yes. Was the threat real? No.
Fear. What have you done in its name? How does fear affect your daily decisions? To one degree or another, every one of us has tempered our behaviour - even refused to do something we probably should have done - because of fear. Should you have pursued that relationship? Should you have done that investment? What stopped you? Fear of rejection? Fear of being ostracised?
Fear only works because it invokes a negative consequence; otherwise you wouldn’t do anything in its name. You can’t love anything in its name because there is no fear in love.
The law uses fear of jail or fine for the lawbreaker. We build walls and buy security gadgets for fear of criminals … probably because they don’t give us their operating timetable, because they too are afraid we could get ready to … well, you get the idea. They use the element of surprise.
But fear does more than keep us from doing the less-than-praiseworthy things we want to do. It also compels us to do things that we wouldn’t do voluntarily. Paying your fine lest you go to jail; renewing your license; …etc.
Fear is only powerful when the consequences are imminent. However when the consequences are not immediate, we don’t fear the things we should probably fear. If you don’t save for retirement, you may be old and poor. If you smoke, you might contract cancer. If you don’t eat healthy, you might get a stroke. Are you afraid yet? Probably not!
So why doesn't the fear of a poverty-stricken retirement or lung cancer or a heart attack or stroke motivate us to change our behavior?
Simple: The pleasure we get from spending our money... or chowing down on a thick, greasy burger... or savoring an after-dinner smoke... is immediate. The price we pay won't be exacted for years or even decades.
Put simply, the distance of the negative event in time neutralizes its power to change our behavior.
It is what Anthony Robins calls the pleasure-pain-principle at work. Our lives are pleasure driven. Whatever is pleasurable seems to get our priority now. Pleasure then, rather than fear, is a natural motivator.
How then do you get your life goals to be in line with the pleasure principle? Here is a clue: as long as you are in pain, or are driven by fear, your chances of success are minimal or non-existent. That is why the master teacher said, ‘never fear, only believe’; or, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear”. If you love what you do, you will en-joy it, or put joy into it, making it pleasurable. Namasté. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org