May 5, 2007

Some thoughts on decision-making with fear

In a (pretty much political) discussion elsewhere in the wide world of electronic communication, I offered this "advice": Never let fear advise you when making decisions.

I got the reply that for that to happen, you need truthful information. My reply to that was that fear is fear, no matter what causes it.

Then I was asked about "never". I confirmed "never". Fear is destructive and, as the motivation behind decision-making, the exact opposite of love. Too many people make decisions because they are afraid of some consequence, rather than making a decision that will actually make them happy.

This led to my discussion partner stating that fear has its uses, such as in keeping you from getting hit by a car while crossing the street. To which I said that I have never avoided crossing streets on a red light out of fear. I have, however, not done that because I understand the physics of a mass of metal bearing down on me at 30 mph or so and the reaction time required by a driver to stop said vehicle upon discovering me. The only time I have been afraid is _while_ crossing a street because I misjudged a situation or a driver did.

I don't cross streets against traffic because I'm not suicidal or stupid. I don't eat poisonous plants for the same reason. Fear is not a part of the equation at all. I am not afraid of any poisonous plants. Some sit in pots in my home and get watered regularly.

The short answer would have been to say that fear is not the same as caution. Fear always gets my adrenalin pumping; caution doesn't.

***

Another person asked how do you stop fear?

My reply:

Fear-based thinking sees problems, enemies and lack at every corner. Subsets of fear include greed, envy, jealousy, pride, anger/aggression and more, so anytime you act on one of those, you're sabotaging yourself.

A lot of the above has to do with expectations from others, who are equally fear-driven in their decision-making. Like keeping up with the Joneses because you think that'll make people like you better (i.e. you're afraid of not being liked if you shop at Goodwill). Unfortunately, the motivation isn't always as clear as in the example. A lot of our behavior was learned when we were little and just became habit, a "given" for how the world's supposed to work, so keeping up with the Joneses could be compensation for parents who never paid you a compliment but seemed to admire money.

Love-based thinking sees solutions, safety and abundance, even when the outcome is unknown. Freedom, peace, joy, harmony, abundance, prosperity, creativity, etc., are subsets of love. Any decision made that is driven by love will benefit everyone, partly because it doesn't harm.

How does this work with whole nations? We don't know yet. Hasn't been done as a general rule, though there have been a number of instances where diplomacy got the chance to do what it's meant to do: keep the military idle. And sometimes people do try to do love-based things on a big scale, like creating the UN, or Live-Aid.

***

Fear is not necessarily something to eradicate in your life; after all, it can make you react quickly enough to a dangerous situation. But when it comes to non-life-threatening decsions - like jobs, marriage, education, eating - a lot of people do base their decision on fear: They are afraid they won't find a better job, or a better partner, or a job without a college education, or the funding for the college education so they don't get one, or that something in the barbecued spare ribs will kill them even they eat the spare ribs rarely, etc. In those situations, fear is useless; it is a distraction from true problem-solving and even fun.

No comments: