What is fear?
In its basic sense, fear is not wanting or being afraid of an undesirable outcome to happen. Thus reasons of fear is that you visualize an undesirable outcome or event and then fear its occurrence.
This is the role fear plays in preserving living creature. Without this mechanism, many undesirable events/outcomes wouldn’t have been avoided. However, the condition becomes handicapping for those obsessing about irrational fears.
Most people attempt to resolve this by operating on their fear itself. The use techniques like: distract your attention, try to overcome your fear…etc. However, such techniques are not sustainable. They might send obsessive fear off, but soon it returns again in attacks. It’s not a permanent solution.
Understand: it’s ALWAYS difficult to operate on your Self. When confronted with any situation in life, if there is a path to get thing done other than through the Self inside; then, opt for it immediately (sadly, this is not the norm).
Instead, operate on the object of fear.
- When you are attacked by a specific fear, consciously identify the undesirable outcome/event triggering your fear (based on my essential definition of fear I defined above). Make sure here that you go through the rabbit hole in pinpointing the real undesirable outcome/event behind your fear.
- Once you know the undesirable outcome/event causing you the fear, you have two options:
- Alter your perception of the outcome/event itself.
How many times you rebelled against something only to find out later that it wasn’t that bad at all? How many times you feared something to find that it was in fact interesting to happen? Sometimes our own perceptions make the outcome/event an undesirable one yet when we ground things in reality or attach them to context, our perception of them changes 180 degrees.
If possible, look at the outcome/event and see what’s about it that can make you perceive it as fear-free.
2. Narrow your definition of what’s fearful.
Fear is sometimes an impulse. If you are not attentive in such time, it will take you over without you giving yourself a chance to think rationally about it. In such cases, when you suddenly say “wait a minute, what am I afraid of”, you may find nothing deserves the fear.
The best way to trap such type of fear (i.e. when it comes as an impulse), is to ask What If?
For example, you are giving a presentation at work and after you were done, you were struck by the fear that you presented badly. In such case, it can turn out to the worst by haunting you down a spiral of negative thoughts. Now, “what if I presented badly”; my colleagues would say that I am not good at public speaking. So What?
Are you going to be fired. No. Are you going to miss the promotion. No (unless your job is not about presenting, which is another thing). Are you going to be hated or ignored by your colleagues. No.
Probably even, your audience won’t remember anything about your bad presentation 3 days after it.
Whenever possible, work on eliminating some of your fears by putting them out of consideration completely. The What If analysis is a viable technique to trivialize your fear, taking it out of the equation.
3. Defuse the influence of the outcome/event by counteracting.
Some things are intrinsically fearful, with no simple angles to exploit for a perception change. For example, fear of death. This is something we cannot alter our perception of it, for obvious reasons.
If you fear something, it means it has direct influence on you. What if you can remove this influence? You are right: you won’t fear it. Let’s take death for example. What would be its influences on you: leaving your beloved, being not ready to meet your God (if you are a believer), feeling pain in the process… This is just a non-exhaustive list to show the method; each one can add his reasons. Thus, in this technique start by enlisting the influences of that thing you fear.
Then, as you tackle each influence, attempt to defuse it by counteracting with an action or mental thought. Following the same example list:
Leaving beloved ones –> In the other world, things are not the same. Your perception changes. You are totally detached for life and is now governed by different rules.
Being not ready to meet your God –> That’s the easiest. Be always ready (if it means to you keeping your prayers…etc.)
Feeling pain in the process –> Well, if it’s going to be really the process of death, understand that it’s soon going to end and things will go away soon. It’s not a pain you’re going to live with.
Doing this exercise, each individual influence is defused once you acted on it.
Whenever faced with a something fearful which its influences are not solvable (like Death), alright, leave its influences as they are. Just defuse their control over you.
It’s brutal; the fact of hearing one’s death sentence. However, it’s still contradictory to logic. We all know that we’re sentenced to death. This then begs the question: why do we yearn, cry, and rebel over the knowledge of having a terminal illness and going to die while we know that we are going to die?
Death is the only unshakable must destination we are all heading to yet it’s the most kept hidden, by design. Societies and activities keep death several steps away that we almost forget about it. The sudden knowledge of one’s impending death due to a terminal illness is thus disruptive to this motion. Now, he sees death starring him in the eye; without a layer of isolation presented in the daily busyness and the society. Therefore, the yearn over the piece of knowledge is not due to the newness of the knowledge or that it wasn’t known beforehand. It’s due to not thinking about death; meaning one wasn’t thinking about it at all before that, or it just passes in front of him with the news of someone else’s death or maybe remembering it from time to time yet without the intensity of the one who’s waiting for his death per a terminal illness. This takes us to the answer of the question.
Death antidote is hope. And hope is an excellent ingredient for procrastination. Everyone has a hope for tomorrow, for next year, for next decade. Everyone procrastinates his own death to the long future. We have abundance of time. That way we can live happily and comfortably with the inevitable fact. That way we can live even with our wrongness. Terminal illness and explicit knowledge just cut the hope and define a deadline. Now the soothers are gone that’s why one cannot withstand the fact without the painkiller.
For a rational person then, it doesn’t matter terminal illness or anything else. These are all routes to the same destination. And I have an argument that Terminal Illness or one’s knowledge of its impending death, while brutal yet has one extreme benefit – even at the thinking level rather than actuality: You have a chance to finish well. Who would hate to have the time to amend relationships, to comfort beloved, to organize things, to apologize for those offended, or to finish up a pending task of importance? Given the fact that one would die anyway, then, you would prefer to know about it beforehand, right? At least so that you prepare your leave; better than to be gone all of a sudden without a goodbye and with your affairs cluttered. This is an extreme benefit from this.
But how to prepare yourself emotionally so that you don’t extreme shock one day if you ever was put in this situation (or from obsessing about it, if you are OCDed or Hypochondriac) AND also benefit if you didn’t ever encounter this and died on your own? Here is how:
- Who needs hope if one would live in Today? If there is no tomorrow, there is no need for hope. Hope is futuristic; it cannot be there in the Present. Live and enjoy your today and you won’t feel worried about not catching tomorrow.
- The notion of Time Abundance is society made. Everything is set into motion. No one is talking about death. Act out of urgency. You have a limited time compared to what you would want to do in a typical life. Time is not abundant and soon your time will be gone. Thus, make sure you live a rich life.
- Your role as a human is to work and do life; not guarantee your lifetime survival. Keep busy with your life in the right way.
- Every way is a way to the same end. It doesn’t matter how each one would die. It’s that everyone is dying regardless he was sick or sleeping. The sick is actually having the benefit over the sleeping: he can prepare and say goodbye. The sleeping one is just gone at the current state. When all ways lead to the same destination; then. the way of your knowledge would be the best one.
Get busy with what you should do and how you should live your life. This will make your life productive and will protect your sanity if you ever came to know about your own death.
Woe for those who embarked on any work or treatment without connection to other human being(s). He surely missed a lot.
Creating and forging deep connections with other human beings, even when we don’t know them, should be the pursuit of life. Through work of arts, through science… through love. An artist ought to create his art to create connections with humans rather than solely expressing himself, or seeking glory, or fame. A scientist works day and night over a pressing humanity problem; to connect with those human beings somewhere who shall be affected by his discovery. A writer and thinker creates thought that can reach those who doesn’t know and affect their lives and emotions.
And a love that is created inside us; enough of it being just a connection. A connection through which human feels worthwhile. What the success of the entire life would be without a connection of love. The connection that lasts even when you no longer exists.
For those looking for meanings for their work; meanings for their relationships. A connection of love is what it is. A connection to other human being(s) is the ultimate seek. It’s the warmth of life.
It’s when the parts of me refusing to live. And who doesn’t need a Will to Live in this life?
It’s when the emotions die from the brutal crushing of days. Of the ensuing sword of life.
It’s when the taste is gone; along with other bodily senses. When the biological becomes mere machinery.
And how not to feel sadness in a world ruled by pain at every encounter? Of the fear of days. Of the shrink of control over what happens.
No, no. That’s not even sadness. I am talking about Sadness Unto Death.
It’s when the parts of me refuse to live.
And should they live? To survive the days? To do the roles? To take care of affairs? The comedy of life…
For the sadness that is inevitable, Sadness Unto Death stands as humanly; not in the giving up to it but in the refusal to live the world that brought it to exist.
It’s when the parts of me refusing to live.
Since when the pen has become the friend.
When there was a need for none to offend.
You took the pen with an end.
Only to find it the best thing you’ve ever held.
You see, you needed a friend…
But you dreaded holding only a pen.
Now you see, it’s the only friend.
All shall see the end…
But only it shall I befriend.
Check out my latest article featured on OpEdNews Network:
If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;
If birds should build as early,
And bees as bustling go,–
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
‘Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with daisies lie,
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It make the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!
Regret is a painful feeling, differential from the rest of other painful sensations. What makes Regret more painful than other negative sensations is that it comes associated with a confirmed sight or perception of what’s right, the right thing that was supposed to be done at the moment we did the thing that we are regretting now. The source of pain in this sensation is thus due to finally seeing the truth or the correct thing that we were suppose to do, but now with no revert. That’s why dropping something in the past that we still have the time to do now does not yield the Regret sensation even if what we kept doing in the past was wrong and now we see the right. This is because we still have the time to do the right; we learn to forgive our past easily that now we can wash it by doing the right going forward. Regret is painful because we finally see what we supposed to do YET time to do it is gone and there is no revert. Both of these elements are must to yield the sensation of Regret.
When I reflect on events or actions in the past and see that something was supposed to be done, the right thing subjectively, instead of what was done, I find that at that time when I did the thing the way I already did, I was still seeing the other way of doing it, but still chose to do it the way I did; the way I am basically regretting now. This refines the past paragraph description of regret a bit: regret is not always associated with a SUDDEN realization of the right thing we ought to do instead of what we already did. In many cases, we choose to do something that way while being in full perception of the other way. In this specific case, when we come to regret the thing now after the time has passed, Regret becomes compounded with the Feel of Guilt. So you regret not seeing or doing the right thing and now the time is gone + the sensation of being guilty for not doing what you had to do because you were fully aware of it but chose to neglect.
In this latter case of Regret, I find Regret a bit paradoxical. I am confronted with a situation. I am aware of two options X and Y. I tend to do X, but at the same time I am inclined to Y. I choose to do X anyways – for whatever reason (being easy, being close to my mood…etc.) Now years later, basically when one suffers the consequences of doing X, Regret happens. This is one scenario and it’s straightforward. The second scenario happens when you do X and then realize that no, you should do Y – here the time is still with you to revert your action. You start to think about making the move from X to Y in order not to regret it in the future. However, you start to feel that shifting to Y will make you regret leaving X. Here is the paradox, Regret in X and Regret in Y. What happened? Why when we still have the time to do X or Y, we are chased by the ghost of regret in both?
In my opinion, in such cases, there is one event that is Real Regret and the other is the Fear of Regret, disguised in regret. We see regret in both because we are unable to differentiate between what’s the one that holds real regret and what’s the one that just holds the fear of regret, but not regret. If you are a regret-based thinker, then, you find it difficult to take decisions or choices in your life under these cases when there is no clear distinction. Admittedly, thinking of regret before the event takes place involves sort of prediction to the future; you are trying to anticipate some events that will take place in the future based on your present choice and you are evaluating whether these events are what you want (or want to avoid) or not. And we are not mistaken to fall a prey to such paradox. Because in many cases taking the decision to move from X to Y entails giving away something we cherish at the present – because if not, we wouldn’t have this paradox in the first place, that is, if X has nothing to cherish or give away, we would be happy to leave it altogether to Y with a lot of ease. Since we are evaluating leaving X to go to Y while X still holds something we like at the present, we become afraid of regretting leaving what we liked at the present to something that we perceive as having something we like too when we go to it, but fear that it turns out to be fake or at least less pleasant than what we gave away as a cost. This even becomes more misleading when Y has some rewards, but futuristic and that you choosing to revert to Y, you will still have to bear some hurdles at the beginning before you reach the rewards. Trading off something we like and have NOW (Instant Gratification) to something that we could be liking more but not now in the future is something sufficient to trigger that paradoxical feeling of Regret. We start to question what if what I anticipate that I will like in the future did not turn out as it should; in this case, I will futuristically regret leaving the pleasure of X for that thing. And at the same time, we think, what if I neglected this futuristic liking because I have what I like now, but in the future what I am liking now will fade away and at that time I will be regretting that I did not choose the event in the past that would have brought me the liking now. That is, the future for the now will be the present when you reach it in the future. We travel with our minds in the future and imagine ourselves there; thus, we become as if we are living two existences at the same time. Thinking ahead is one of the challenging humanly ability; unlike animals that are only concerned with the present moment.
Unfortunately, I won’t tend to put conclusions here because there seem to be no definite one, in the sense of putting something to theorize about. Some people say go and do what you have to do. Some Self Help books preaches for do what interests you whatever the case. But, you know, it’s not that easy. There are considerations that tie us always. And these preaches of some Self Help books under the theme of “Living your life at fullest” or “Living the life you want” contradicts Moral Philosophy theories in many ways. That we are moral agents guided also by duties and obligations. “Living the life you want” in the incomplete way Self Help books preaches for simply drops this Moral consideration. They are animals that can just go and live the life they want; because they don’t have moral obligations to any other thing. But for us, as humans, our moral obligations sometimes stand between us and what we want to do. In this case, as thinking humans, I am still not saying that we follow obligations on the account of how we want to live, but per the same Moral Philosophy theories, self-interest is still something of consideration. This is one point. The second point is that not always what contradicts us are obligation and duties. Sometimes it’s just us not knowing exactly what even would better represent our best self-interest. That is, if you have zero obligations to any other object except yourself, you will still witness to Paradox of Regret because you would be unsure which choice X or Y would really achieve your best Self-Interest. So the problem seems to be, in terms of the Paradox of Regret as I explained above, that in defining our real Self-Interest in event + resolving any clashes with Moral Obligations existent.
Thus, my only advise (or sort of conclusion, I would say) is whenever confronted by the Paradox of Regret, that is, being chased by the ghost of Regret in ALL the choices you got, try to 1) clearly define your best Self-Interest and 2) clearly define any possible clashes with Moral Obligations you are tied to. Then, analyze them against each choice you have. Which one would be meeting my best Self-Interest? And in doing so, what Moral Obligations that would collide with it? And are there any ways to resolve this collide? If yes, then, go ahead, choose, and resolve these clashes. If no resolutions to these clashes or middle-way, do I need to make specific sacrifices? And if yes, will the gain I will have outweighs these sacrifices? And if I made them, will I afford losing them? This is because in many cases the gain will outweigh, but one would not afford losing something in the journey till the gain is reached. For example, to lose having a respectable salary in order to be a university professor after some years – that is, living as a graduate student with low level university rank jobs on moderate stipend. When you become finally a professor (just as you wanted), yes it will outweigh the benefit of having good salary working in a company with no interest, but you may not afford living in pity short of money for some years. Again, self-help books would preach sacrifice for the ultimate goal, which is true; however, you are the person who would live it, so you must be aware of them so that you design your psyche, life, and expectations on such choice and your sacrifices for it. The above self-interrogation with questions I listed is a plausible line of assessing choices for the purpose of resolving the Paradox of Regret. Yet, we should be aware that Regret is an integral part of life and that whatever we do, we should be doing it to minimize it, but not to avoid it altogether.