Fear and “What Ifs”


Today was your typical Sunday and I had some time to just sit and let my mind wander, it settled on a book I read some time ago out of curiosity and maybe a little boredom thrown in for good measure.

I have always been fascinated with early philosophy and how one might be able to use some of that early thinking in our everyday modern thinking. The book in question is Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

The letters dealing with fear, as an emotion, and the impact it can have on an individual, apparently became lodged somewhere in a subfolder in my head. One quote in particular has been very useful over the years.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

We fear all kinds of things and that fear can be extremely limiting without there often being any foundation.

Of course there are things to be afraid of that are just common sense:

  • Standing on a narrow ledge in a very high place.
  • Walking into a burning building (without there being someone to rescue of course).

You get the idea. Then there are those times when, if you take a Stoic view, where fear is irrational and self limiting:

  • Public speaking (fear of being judged or laughed at).
  • Flying (the plane might crash)…boats might sink…
  • Approaching a member of the opposite, or same, sex (fear of rejection).

We are not talking about phobias here as they are outside the norm and too individualized to be considered.

Some of this might seem obvious but if we look closer, and deeper, in ourselves, some of the Stoic ideas from way back, (4 BC – 65 AD), can at least remind us that we can accomplish more if we acknowledge fear, assess that fear and determine whether it is valid.

Essentially the Stoics felt that if an action would almost certainly lead to personal harm then restraint or avoidance should be exercised. Action could of course still be taken if the benefit negated the risk factor, i.e. (saving a child from a burning building).

Personally I feel that fear arises from “What Ifs” and “Unknowns”. The “What Ifs” being a myriad of possible but identifiable outcomes, which we can then examine and assess, and the “Unknowns” being from information we simply do not have and which cannot be acquired.

In situations where physical harm is not really a factor fear can be a powerful tool as it often identifies an opportunity where the most likely outcome can be gauged, in a detached manner, then acted upon.

Okay, I have rambled enough for now. I have been reading a lot of Friedrich Nietzsche’s work lately too, maybe soon we can examine some of his theories on the Eternal Recurrence or maybe his thoughts on Nihilism? Doesn’t that sounds like fun!!



One comment on “Fear and “What Ifs”

  1. […] Fear & “What Ifs” (throughthecrackedwindow.wordpress.com) […]

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