How much control does fear have over our lives? The question occurred to me after watching the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s new futuristic tale After Earth, starring Will and Jaden Smith.
In the trailer, we can hear Will say to his son, “Fear is not real, it is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”
I put the thought in the back of my mind and let it marinate for a few days. Today I had lunch with a friend. He’s a young successful lawyer, who after three years at a prestigious firm has given his notice to pursue a start-up venture.
He explained that the choice was indeed very difficult. The fear of failure, the fear of losing job security, the fear of losing money and respect, the fear of future uncertainty … all undoubtedly weighed very heavily on him. However, he made a choice – a very admirable choice at that. A choice that many people think about, but so few act upon.
Fear is a very primal emotion that actually has many benefits for the human soul. It allows us to make quick judgments when confronted with potential dangers and allows our brains to recall harmful threats so we avoid them in the future.
But beyond these conscious advantages of fear, it has limited application in modern times. No longer are we traipsing through the jungle eating berries and wild mushrooms while being hunted by jaguars.
The dangers we face today are quite minimal, statistically speaking. According to the Department of Justice, the odds of being a robbed in the US are about 1 in 420 per year. I imagine those numbers are significantly greater in any other western country.
Today we have increasingly more control over our environment, yet have much more fear residing in ourselves than ever before. Things like money, health, and how we are perceived in society are causing great anxiety and depression.
The reason seems to stem from the media realizing that stories focused around sensationalist fear capture more people’s attention. Instead of humans evolving past fear, the media has reintroduced this primitive emotion into our lives in excess. With all the reports of natural disasters, terrorism, and school shootings, we have a skewed sense of the real dangers in the world.
Fear is a powerful emotion that can creep into other aspects of your life. It can remain in our minds for as long as we let it, and it gets more difficult to get rid of as time goes by. Often we exaggerate the dangers and focus on the negative effects of an experience instead of the positives.
So how do we deal with fear? I cannot advise you how to best live your life, but at the very least, be aware of how much of your decision making is based on unnecessary fear.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, “…the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
Edward Mullen | Elite.