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Why Your Fears Won’t Come True

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Fear doesn’t work the way we think it does. I’ll teach you something cool about fear that you can start putting to use right away.

When something scares you, you usually just have an aversion to the notion of that thing. Just the thought of making certain phone calls, confronting certain people, or making certain commitments makes the butterflies bubble up.

This is the point where we usually back down, and distract ourselves from the thought of it by checking email or doing some cleaning or organizing that suddenly seems important.

Quitting my last job to go traveling was something I was afraid of for a long time before I did it. It was a very small company, my boss had been good to me, and I knew it was going to be a blow that came out of nowhere. The thought of it made me nervous, and I decided to put it off till the next day, ten or twelve times.

Most fears keep us at arm’s length like that: we back down at just the idea of doing something nerve-wracking. The fear has done its job — to keep us from going there — and so we don’t look any closer at what it is we’re really afraid of about that idea.

If you do look closely at almost any fear, it’s always a specific moment you’re fearing. A moment with awful feelings in it — awkwardness, pain, shame, guilt, horror, angst. Life unfolds only in moments, so what else could the problem be except some of the moments that you might run into?

Ultimately that’s all you are ever fearing: moments that you believe will force you to experience feelings you really don’t want to experience. If you really break it down there’s nothing else that drives us but the appeal of feelings we want to experience and the fear of feelings we don’t want to experience.

Whatever the feeling is, it’s a feeling you’ve already experienced at some point in your life. You couldn’t be afraid of it if you hadn’t.

The longer we live, the more nasty experiences we have, and the more fears we carry around. But we forget that it’s really acute experiences we’re trying to avoid, and instead we let entire categories of actions and notions get dismissed from our lives, because they represent those experiences.

The cat who was afraid of grass for all the wrong reasons

We had a cat who was afraid of the front lawn. She would creep up to it, sniff it a bit, then tear across it like she was being chased. I watched her do this a few times before learning that my Dad had once turned on the sprinkler hose while she was lying beside it. After that, to her the lawn was a bad place, because it represented the threat of a terrible experience she didn’t want to have again.

She got over it, probably after accidentally having a few good experiences around the lawn. Animals are probably better at forgetting this stuff. Humans cling to fears because our thinking is so hopelessly lost in symbols and categories. We hold onto this idea that we can fence off the painful areas of life if we’re careful enough.

They aren’t all big things. There were so many foods I didn’t eat for years just because my first run-in with them was bad one. I didn’t eat onions for a second time until I was an adult, just because I ate a piece of raw white onion when I was little.

I didn’t recognize that there are a million different ways an onion-eating experience could actually go down — after all, who eats large chunks of raw, white onion? — but I had already cordoned off “onion” as a no-go zone for me, because I refused to ever subject myself to the burning, acidic experience of my first close encounter with an onion.

Onions in all forms became fearsome symbols of that lone, unbearable experience, and so I steered my whole life clear of them. This is the distance at which we normally detect and respond to our fears — from far enough away that we don’t really understand what it is we’re fearing. I was fearing the return of a single, awful moment I had when I was a kid.

One day more than a decade later, I bit the bullet and tried something with onion on it, because it was either that or eat nothing. And I had a different experience. It wasn’t bad. “Onion” came to symbolize a much better experience.

What you fear can’t really happen

What I’ve come to realize is that all my fears of the future are actually fears of the past.

Each of us has a whole bank of awful moments in our memories, each of which are so painful that we can’t accept that we could experience the same pain again.

If the thought of something you want to do rouses fear in you, think: what is the experience — the feeling — I’m actually fearing here? You don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and try to figure out the childhood memory it comes from, but it doesn’t take much thought to identify the precise experience you can’t bear to risk happening.

By obeying our fears from arm’s length, we end up cordoning off enormous areas of possibility. Life is inescapably risky and painful, not to mention 100% fatal. So don’t think you can dodge pain, awkwardness or by backing down from something a bit scary.

The real bad stuff isn’t going to be something you had the foresight to worry about anyway. From Baz Luhrmann’s famous speech: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

Now, of course there are all sorts of unpleasant scenarios that can happen. But there is no way you can cordon off enough of life to eliminate the risk of pain, and that’s what our fears are trying to do.

And I can tell you, as somebody who’s been a lifelong master cordon-offer, building all those walls will guarantee you way more pain than almost anything else. There’s no better way to limit your skills, experience, personal power, income and prospects. How do you think people get stuck in jobs and relationships they know are killing them?

What you fear, whatever horrible scenario you think you’re avoiding — it isn’t going to happen anyway. Similar outcomes may happen, but it will never unfold quite like you expected, because that would make you a genuine psychic.

The difficult phone conversation you’ve been putting off: there is no way it will go down exactly like you expect it will. It will take a different line, a different tone, either slightly or entirely. But your fear, as it is, will not come true.

Whenever you notice you have some unnerving scenario brewing in your mind, remember one inalienable fact — no matter what scenario you’re picturing:

This is not the way it’s actually going to go down.

It can’t be, because you can’t predict the future. All situations are far more complex that you can possibly calculate, and fear has a way of completely screwing with your higher faculties. Whatever horrible moments you’re afraid of, they cannot match the way the situation is actually going to go down.

Fear of the future is fear of the past. You can’t fear the future because you don’t know the future. You’re just deathly afraid that certain parts of the past will happen again.

Next time you travel to somewhere new, either a new city, a new neighborhood, or even a new building, try to picture what it will be like — what it will look like, what it will feel like to be there. No matter what kind of information you have about it, your imagined impression will be wrong. Because you’re building it only with what’s already in your head. What it’s actually built of, what it actually looks and feels like, is not there in your head so you just can’t get it right.

This is what fearsome thoughts are made of: stuff that’s already in your head — experiences you’ve already had, and categorically not experiences you’re yet to have. You can’t know the moment you’re afraid of, because it doesn’t exist yet. So your fear cannot come true.

Whatever happens, the form it will take will be different. It might be bad, it might be good. It might open a door for you you never knew was there.

But I think we typically over-fear by default. Time and time again in my life I have been surprised at how easy and rewarding most of these scary propositions end up being when I go ahead with them anyway. When they really hurt me is when I keep them at arm’s length, untackled, where they stalk me and mock me.

Those dreaded conversations, when I finally take them on, never turn out quite like I thought. I’ve rehearsed long tangents of tricky conversations that never happened. I’ve even flow-charted intimidating phone calls in my head — if he says A I’ll say B, if he says C, I’ll say D.

This is almost always useless. He never says A, or C. That’s because whatever I’ve predicted, that’s not the way it’s going to go down. Because I’m just chicken, not psychic.

I can guess at what’s going to happen, and of course I’m apt to guess that something terrible will happen, just so that I can convince myself it’s a dangerous action to take and I can feel justified in relieving myself from the responsibility of doing it. It lets me off the hook for the moment, and I gain another roaming spectre in my life and another long-lasting no-go zone. Well done.

Fear is fun

When you feel fear, take that as a reminder to bring curiosity to the moment. Something new is on the other side of it. If you act in spite of the fear, something exciting is going to go down. Nine times out of ten you’ll end up gaining some situational benefit, and ten times out of ten, you’ll feel stronger immediately.

And maybe there is a passing unpleasant feeling that will come with it. It’s probably a good trade-off anyway. Some of the best prizes in my life have come just on the other side of something I was afraid of, and they didn’t end up being difficult or painful at all. They were so close to me the whole time, and I would never have known what they were offering.

Even if the situation does unravel into a debacle of some kind, if you can remember to keep that sense of curiosity alive throughout it, if you can drop the insane hope that you can control things by fearing them, if you can keep your sense of humor close by, it can actually be amusing to watch everything fall apart.

Think of what a powerful notion that is: fear is fun.

Have fun today.


Photo by Jonycunha

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Mac March 9, 2011 at 12:50 am

David, are you a fan of William Gibson?

David March 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

I really liked Neuromancer and loved No Maps For These Territories, but I had trouble getting through some of his other stuff. Why do you ask?

Stephen March 9, 2011 at 3:40 am

David, (Can we already be on a first-name basis?) I cannot believe how appropriate this entry is. I’ve been talking with my girlfriend for approximately an hour about how she shouldn’t be so afraid to call her mom and tell her she’s not coming home for Easter. (There’s this music festival for which we’ve already purchased tickets.) I read this to her and she said that it did make a great amount of sense.

Basically, I thought it’d be nice for you to know that people are actually being affected by your words. I love your realistic approach. Keep being awesome.

David March 9, 2011 at 6:29 am

That’s awesome. Have fun at the music festival ;)

Andreas the Swede March 9, 2011 at 4:01 am

I also have a big need of controlling myself, my surroundings and my perception of reality. I think that if I act in a certain way, I can stop people from commenting on my insecurities and from acting in a way I find disrespectful. As the years go by it becomes more and more obvious to me that I can’t control reality, no matter how ridiculously hard I try. It is what it is. People are that way that are and I am the way I am. I could write a lot about this too but this is isn’t my blog so.. :)

David March 9, 2011 at 6:30 am

It’s funny how the more we attempt to control reality, the more out-of-control it gets. Well, sometimes it’s not funny.

Chimera March 9, 2011 at 4:17 am

“…if you can keep your sense of humor close by, it can actually be amusing to watch everything fall apart.”

You are my hero. Seriously.

David March 9, 2011 at 6:31 am

Don’t forget to try it :)

Mara March 9, 2011 at 7:08 am

As always, a great post!!! whenever i read your articles you remind me one of my favorite quotes, especially when you do those 30 days trials: “Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.” -Herbert Otto :-)
I realized that once you engage in changing one part of your self/life for whatever reason it affects your whole perception and makes other changes much easier. It was very scary at first realizing that the career of the last 7 years is not what i want to do for the rest o f my life, that i want to study and practice something totally new… rather than wasting my time overthinking, i decided to take small steps like studying, practicing, communication and getting closer with people that are already in the field which made the changes to come naturally. As a result i got accepted for the courses, encouragement from my environment and positive feelings about the future. Next step, resigning. I too, run some scenarios in my mind…

haley March 9, 2011 at 7:14 am

ha! this is so random but i didnt like onions either. yea i was dumb enough to eat one raw…ha. oh and good for you Mara! XD

Nicky Spur March 9, 2011 at 10:49 am

This is fantastic post. I understand the fear thing completely. It’s often just a conditioned response we naturally fall into and rarely question the actual nature of the fear. I’ve found repeated exposure to the fear and acting in the face of it helps you to:
a) minimize whatever fear is bothering you at the moment
b) know that you can handle fear in the future.

Good stuff.

Bronwyn March 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I think this is my favourite post since a friend told me about Raptitude a few weeks ago. (Or one favourite out of many!) I’ve recently decided to leave a job that I’m not enjoying and as yet I don’t have anything else lined up. It took me a good 6 months of thinking about leaving to actually get myself to the point where I could have the conversation with my boss – I was pretty afraid of that conversation and yet it ended up being so much better than I was expecting. The whole team that I work with has been really supportive and encouraging, and they get that I need to leave so I can pursue a different direction and do something I find more meaningful. Part of me wishes I’d made the decision earlier as I’d be one step closer to doing something I love.

Next scary conversation: Telling my parents (who are visiting from interstate) over dinner tonight that I currently stand to be unemployed in a month. I’m suddenly feeling a whole lot better about it.

Thanks David. :)

David March 11, 2011 at 6:32 am

Hey, congrats on your new freedom Bronwyn. Enjoy.

Michael March 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Great article. One of the strangest things about fear, is that some of the fears I’ve faced (usually but not always around dating) have resulted in the most incredible experiences of my life, sometimes for months and even years afterwards. When the payoff of facing even a small moment of fear can be so huge, why do we still find it so difficult? A mystery…

nrhatch March 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Wonderful advice, David.

When we are not willing to risk anything . . . we risk everything.

nickyO March 10, 2011 at 5:28 am

Do you think fear or any unpleasant feeling we experience when we anticipate the worst is a way to “tone up” for the real event?

I like every thing you said in this post, and I’m going to try to practice it, but at the same time…I think we need to freak out a little bit in a safe place to help us not to freak out at the wrong time in the wrong place and to get our perceptive in line.

I especially agree with what you said about trying to be curious and accepting the lack of control you may have in a sticky situation. So, timely is this advice for me at this moment. You post is a needed reminder. Thank you.

David March 11, 2011 at 6:30 am

I think sometimes yes, but I do know that if you dwell on it and wait to act, the fear tends to snowball. If you can get a major freakout out of your system before you do anything it might be better.

S March 10, 2011 at 6:48 am

This has really hit the spot! Funny as it is. :)

Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I’ve found that the best way to deal with fear is to just do what you’re afraid of. It’s so much easier said than done, but I just do it anyway. It has taken me some time to start facing my fear and I definitely don’t do it without some anxiety. But I do it. The best part is that it’s helped me to build greater confidence in my own inner strength, which of course leads to less fear.

David March 11, 2011 at 6:23 am

That really is the most direct and effective way. Walk right into it.

Ben @ The KaRma Sutra March 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Fear is fun! I love it. Colliding with your post through stumbleupon is precisely the type of synchronicity that keeps me engaged in personal development – the help I need is always there. Thank you, David.

et March 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Keep this post for the time in the future when you are about to open the door to the doctor’s office and find out that the one you love (wife, son, daughter, best friend) has a incurable, terminal, painful illness. And remember “fear is fun”.

nickyO March 11, 2011 at 4:33 am

I hope this isn’t a situation you are in at the moment or have experienced. I know what it is to watch someone you love die. But I don’t think that type of pain and fear is what is being addressed in the post. The post is referring to the type of fear that stops you from doing the things you know you should or the type of fear that worsens or feeds into an already negative experience.

Emotions are with us for a reason but they can get out of control and I think that is one of the points of the post.

In those truly terrible situations of course there is nothing fun about the pain or fear, but even then…we can’t let those emotions stop us from trying to help/care for/or even cherish the people we love.

nickyO March 11, 2011 at 4:52 am

And don’t let pain or fear stop you from taking care of yourself either…or you aren’t going to be any good to anybody else.

David March 11, 2011 at 6:21 am

Like clockwork… there’s always someone who brings up some extreme scenario about dying family members. Although it’s pretty clear that this post is about everyday aversions, I’ve been in the scenario you describe, and the gist still applies: accept your ultimate lack of control, know that it’s not going to go down the way you picture, and know that walking into it is more helpful than turning away from it.

kitty March 11, 2011 at 7:07 am

You must come to terms with life…and death. Fear is part of both.

Lacey March 11, 2011 at 9:07 am

I fear a lot of things in my life and yes some of that fear does prevent me from acting. Fear of living and dying alone is a huge fear I have, so I stay in a loveless marriage because this fear prevents me from acting otherwise. However my other fears such as fear of flying or fear of drowning are fairly common and are at a normal range where it does not prevent me from going near a plane or jumping in a pool. But honestly I cannot fathom feeling good during any of those moments where I’ve had these fears. Isn’t that a bit masochistic?

The notion of “fear is fun” just seems odd and silly to me. Can you explain a bit more please? Thank you.

nrhatch March 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

Lacey ~ Fear and Excitement are the same thing . . . it all depends upon the label we choose to apply to the feeling.

Maybe one of these quotes will resonate with you:

There’s no such thing as “zero risk.” ~ William Driver

The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all. ~ Jawaharial Nehru

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

Unless you walk out into the unknown, the odds of making a profound difference in your life are pretty low. ~ Tom Peters

Nothing ventured, something lost. ~ Neale Clapp

David March 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

By “Fear is fun” I don’t mean that fear is pleasant, but that wherever there is fear there is a possibility to cultivate curiosity. Holding that curiosity about exactly how it will go down makes it easier to act in spite of it. There is something exhilarating about walking right into a fear and letting whatever’s going to hit you hit you. A little bit of thought about what precisely you’re afraid of (which is not the normal way to respond to fear) goes a long way. If you know it’s just an undesirable (but not harmful in a long-term way) feeling, it makes it easy to summon the will to do it.

Melissa March 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Great post! I can’t count how many times I have imagined the absolute worst scenario happening in a situtation, when the total opposite thing happened. I do the flow-chart thing with phone calls all the time. I actually did that yesterday. After reading your post, it seems silly to do. How can I predict what the other person on the phone is going to say? Thanks for your great perspective.

Yankee Doodle March 12, 2011 at 2:45 am

How do you decide whether or not to alter a particular inclination, and how do you decide when to quit trying to alter a particular natural inclination and just accept it as a part of who you are?

Humans experience all sorts of urges and responses that it’s hard to know the sources of these urges and responses and whether to go with them or try to alter them. For example, if someone experiences extreme anxiety while giving public presentations, should they muster up all they can to alter their perspectives to allow them to become less anxious? When should they stop attempting to become less anxious about giving public presentations and just accept that’s a part of who they are? But maybe they just aren’t trying hard enough? I have a fear of public speaking and performing in front of large audiences. I am fully aware of the irrational nature of my fear. Nevertheless, I still experience extreme anxiety while speaking or performing in front of an audience.

Sometimes I don’t know what emotions I’m feeling. Sometimes I experience certain emotions that are highly irrational but no matter how much I try to rationalize the irrational nature of the emotions, the more distressed I become. In those instances, it’s better to just ride out the emotions while trying not to feed it anymore.

I’d also like to mention that our inclinations stem largely from social conditioning. We are drawn to and repelled from certain things due to our past experiences. But how can we discern the true reasons behind our inclinations? Women shave mostly because society says so. Even a very strong- willed woman would have a hard time not shaving no matter how valid her personal justifications are for not shaving. Sometimes we are stuck at the mercy of our conditioned inclinations and no amount of mind alterations and unconditioning will alter the inclination.

David March 12, 2011 at 8:28 am

I think you’re over-complicating things. This is an appeal to look closer at everyday fears to see if we can’t tease out the imagined moment we are really afraid of. Whether you choose to act in spite of it is up to you, but knowing what feeling it is you want to avoid gives you much more insight as to whether it’s worth the risk.

Yankee Doodle March 12, 2011 at 2:50 am

What about feral children or people who were raped as children or veterans who’ve witnessed incredible bloodshed? Can they just turn off the irrational fear that they experience? Will merely “seeing things as they are” stop the physiological responses that create the feeling of fear?

David March 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

Who said anything about turning off fear? I think in your rush to rebut me with the typical extreme rape and war scenarios, you missed the point. If you can’t find anything useful for you here, there’s plenty else to read on the internet.

Astrid March 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I really wish rape could really be regarded as an extreme scenario – but as an educated survivor I can tell you it’s sadly way, way more common than you’d think (even among men). In some situations, I experience extremely powerful fear responses that can easily become full-blown panic attacks if I’m not careful. Obviously, I have to remove myself from those situations. Fearing for my physical safety can’t be helped and I don’t think it would be wise to ignore those gut feelings anyway.

That being said, this is still an article that speaks to me strongly. I fully understand the difference between everyday fears and fears linked to past trauma. They don’t exist on the same level at all, and tackling the former is necessary to grow as a person. This is advice I’ll be living by from now on; I’m pretty much done taking the safest way out of things.

Brenda March 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Dear former lifelong master cordon-offer,
You are getting so good at this clearheaded writing. This one has me smiling because you’ve taken such a lightheaded approach to such a serious topic. The humor is ever-present. Delightful reading for sure. Action beats inaction. Laughter beats despair. After all, Shakespeare did write more comedies than tragedies.

Erin March 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm

One of my favorite things to do is to give people their instincts back – which is exactly what this post has accomplished, I feel.

Just hearing that your fears aren’t lying to you to keep you down – but informing you and that can build you up and it’s not just ok but a damn good idea to actually get curious about what fear is going on about – wow – it’s a beautiful relief to have and to watch.

Jardley March 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

what about right after pushing past the fear you feel accomplished by it but then start to have a fear of that success? Like for example in dating you ask her out and whatever the answer you are happy you did this and if it’s successful at times you end up having a fear of it. I hope I’m explaining clearly. But what do you do with that fear?

David March 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Any time you recognize a fear it pays to take a look at what the fear really is: what exactly is the undesirable thing you don’t want to happen? Without knowing that you can’t really know what to do.

Vilx- March 15, 2011 at 5:28 am

What about the case where you’ve done this before many times and have a very good idea on how it will go down? Sure, you can’t be certain, but if there is over 99% possibility that it will be unpleasant… What do you do then?

David March 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

It really depends what it is. Going to work probably carries a 99%+ possibility of unpleasantness, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily a smart thing to do. Can you give me an example?

Keith B March 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm


You crack me up. Every time I come on this website, the article you posted for the day applies directly to my life. I’m not sure if you ever listen to Dane Cook, but he has a skit about fighting with someone about nothing. I am in a “nothing fight” with my roommate right now, and after reading this article, I find myself unable to keep dwelling. Fear is fun. Cheers.

Keith B

Kristin March 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm

This puts things in perspective… Nice post.

Nitya March 20, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Iam a newbee at work(my first job) and i have been given additional responsibility to do something that i have no clue about.Iam really scared of even asking someone what it is , for the fear that they may think how dumb Iam.I have even thought of quitting work just with this fear.

paul March 26, 2011 at 3:26 am

stumbled to your site and haven’t left for hours, excellent work.

refreshed, in a word.

Martin March 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm

One of the ways we learn to live, is to learn how to die. What does this mean? Well, the ultimate fear, is the fear of dying. If you can accept your death or other peoples, all your fears will diminish in size. Death is the one thing no one has control over.

I believe this is one reason why people are attracted to dangerous sports, but this can be a distraction from facing all the fears stopping us from living fulfilled live. Learning how to die teaches us to the meaning of life, what do I want to experience before I die? How do I want people to remember me?

Brandon E. Kocher March 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for helping to change my perception of fear! I am already stronger.

Thanks again!


Moses June 18, 2011 at 1:33 am

This article is fantastic. I’ve referred tons of my friends to read it as well. My question isn’t about the content of the article specifically, but more toward what you said at the beginning…about quitting your job to travel. I’ve heard of a few other people doing this, and have always wanted to do it myself…but I’m wondering about the actual mechanics. Obviously, money is a factor. What was your preparation to do this? Did you have to save up forever? Or were you the ‘take it as it comes’ type, and basically be a bum on the street to earn money to get to the next place? I’ve always been curious how people actually do this.

David June 18, 2011 at 7:48 am

The key is to develop location independent income. That means find a way to be able to earn money without having to be in any particular place. Most people’s incomes are tied to one city — they have to the same workplace every day. But there are ways to work from anywhere. Some people do web development, freelance writing, or phone consulting, which can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Other people sell their own information products, which can be all done online. Here’s as big list of ways to earn money from afar:


Jane August 10, 2011 at 1:01 am

Please stop changing my life :)

I keep coming back to this article, it’s my mantra at the moment.
Some examples from my life: thinking of fear like this has helped me to see a new relationship as just that, a new experience, and not one to be feared because of my past experiences. It helped me in a job interview as I didn’t bring my past fears of interviews in and I had clarity without fear, I was able to realise the job wasn’t the one for me and say no. It helped me find the cause of a persistent health issue by not being fearful based on past diagnoses and failed ‘cures’. Amazing. Not always easy, but amazing.

David August 10, 2011 at 6:33 am

It makes me glad to hear that Jane. People tell me they like what they read here all the time, but it’s less often that people tell me what it has actually changed in their lives.

Tabula Rasa May 21, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Thanks David. Your article has surprisingly made me resilient against the ill deeds of an enemy called ‘fear’.

Maz August 29, 2013 at 12:43 am

You had me convinced until you mentioned being a psychic – then I went into total fear because I am a psychic and a damn good one.

So thanks for concreting my fear!

Nick Hilden March 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I dig this post a lot. I recently spent a year living with my girlfriend (who had never traveled before) in Spain, and at first she had a really hard time embracing new experiences because she manufactured various social fears. It took a single embrace-the-moment experience for her to break out of that and realize that whatever you’re afraid is going to happen almost certainly won’t.

I also really like the thing about you overcoming your fear of onions. I had the same thing with running and avocados. I wrote a little bit about it in a recent post: http://lifedonewrite.com/2014/03/14/health-dont-die-confusion/

David Cain March 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I have become more aware recently at the contrast between how I expected something to go and how it actually went. I would like to do an experiment where I write a paragraph describing what I expect some nerve-wracking event to be like, and the write one later describing how it actually went. I bet it would be hilarious.

Donna March 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I just discovered that fear is so much worse than reality….
after literally a lifetime of anxiety, fearing cancer, leaving my kids motherless etc, I just went through surgery and diagnosis with a calm that astonished me, and was able to take a day at a time and talk myself down from spiralling 3am thoughts very effectively. I feel as though my bluff got called….I feel very strong and full of energy, and HAPPY. Admittedly my cancer has a good chance of having been cured by the surgery, but I only found that out recently and went through much uncertainty in the previous weeks. It’s as though having the limitless nightmare become manageable facts has given me a reference point….I know what happy feels like now, what lucky feels like, because I’ve visited some lower points (but not been destroyed by them). It’s a whole new world.
Thanks David, wonderful piece, as always.

David Cain March 27, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Wonderful news Donna. Fear is often worse than reality because we can create unlimited amounts of it if we’re not careful. Reality is limited in a way fear isn’t.

chris March 27, 2014 at 7:33 pm

“How do you think people get stuck in jobs and relationships they know are killing them?”

what a powerful line. you really got it down here. i was struggling for months to quit my relationship. i was fearing the outcome. then i quit with my partner.
and now the outcome is even worse than i could have imagined, but it was still the right decision. i just had couldnt do it earlier, which i should have done.

you really spoke out of my mind with this article. keep it up, david!

Bev March 28, 2014 at 12:17 am

Fantastically insightful and true. When I have to make decisions, though, I check in and ask myself if it comes from a place of fear (which then makes the decision or choice wrong, as i would pick ‘safe’) and if the answer is yes, I rethink that, and to focus on a better experience, a newer one, even though the risk is higher. Is that counter productive, David?

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