Before I begin, let me state for the record that I am not a professional psychologist. I have, however, been told by several individuals who perform a variety of functions in the field of psychology and human behavior and education that I am a "pretty skilled pop psychologist." I see things (no not dead people). In my personal history I have dealt with fears one of three ways: terror (as a child), rage (as an adolescent and young adult), and humor (still with a little bit of residual anger, as what I am today).
This is important: If you are experiencing panic attacks or severe anxiety, you should consult a counselor or therapist, who will refer you to a physician if necessary. There are a variety of ways to work on clinical anxiety, not all of them involving drugs. They do, however, all involve professional help. I'll say it again (and again later) I am not that kind of professional.
The first step is understanding what causes fear. Fear is a chemical and instinctive reaction within the animal body, what has been called the fight or flight instinct. It is connected to our strongest instinct, the will to survive; and, our second strongest drive to protect our tribe/bloodline/cubs...children, which is also connected to that will to survive. Chemically it is the release of hormones into the blood stream, and the sensations that accompany it that we associate with fear. The primary fear chemical is adrenaline.
The effective life of adrenaline in the human blood stream is about 45 (forty-five) minutes. For some slightly more, for others slightly less. Adrenaline gives you the drive and ability, the heightened senses, to either deal directly with a threat (fight) or escape (flight). Once the adrenaline factory turns on, there is very little that will shut it off. How each person responds to the adrenaline rush is developed primarily by their nurture history, the environment in which they grew up and developed. Not everyone has a fight or flight response. Some people have a flight or flight response, that is run away or run faster. Others, like me for a period of my life (and to some extent still) have a fight or fight response, that is fight or leap into a blind rage reaction. Neither is optimal for interpersonal relationship development (making friends and keeping them around).
I'll try to get more into what we do with the fear as we go here. So, buckle up, keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, and remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop.
Dealing with situationally catalyzed fear (SCF - fear that rises out of some sort of incident or experience), as opposed to clinical anxiety disorders, begins with one thing:
How you deal with fear is simply that and nothing else. People choose to take charge of their lives or fail to address fears. More often, people fail to choose to take charge of their lives; they ignore the elephant in the room. Even more accurately, people fail to make the right choices in trying to take charge of a life they feel may be out of control; they address other matters totally unrelated to the problem. The fact is that there are two truths related to SCF fears:
A third truth exists as well: fear that is examined and understood usually does not remain a fear for very long.
Sure there are the regular, run of the mill fears: death (can't avoid it), pain (you can avoid it usually, but when you can't you can usually alleviate it), taxes (see death), loss (Things? replace them. Loved ones? Honor them and remember their lives. Youth? Get over it, everyone ages--Oh! and see Death.)
Let's look at some fears I've personally examined:
Fear of Public Speaking: (Glossophobia)
Why did I start with this one? It is what people fear most and it is the most truly irrational fear. Why? because nearly everyone speaks publically without realizing it. Think about it this way: have you ever hung out with a couple friends, doing nothing in particular, "shooting the breeze" perhaps, joking around? If you answered yes, you have spoken in public. Unless you literally walk through life with your head down and your hands jammed in your pockets, absolutely saying not a word, you have at some time spoken in public. Now you're barking epithets at me (cursing) or shaking your head in sad disbelief (or a combination or something in between), but the truth be told, there is no difference. If you have shared a word with two or more people in any venue, you have engaged in public speaking. Unless you were trapped underground and totally unaware that other people were present, you were in public. If you were making the grunting noises with your mouth commonly referred to as speech, you were speaking. Now put them together; this is public speaking.
Aside from the occassional US President (I'm referring to the infamous 8 January 1992 incident when then President George H.W. Bush vomited into the lap of the Prime Minister of Japan, Kiichi Miyazawa--his illness likely was not caused by the speaking but by a bad piece of fish), no one has ever suffered ill from standing up in front of a few people and talking. Trust me (famous last words of all con-men), I used to teach it to middle schoolers and none of them ever suffered a moment of pain or an ounce of damage from talking in front of people. Some of them even went on to speak at high school graduations and college commencements, one of whom was the most terrified I ever met.
Now to the fear of it, rather the examination of the fear of it. What's to be afraid of? Really. Is the audience going to storm the stage and drag you off to some grisly and untimely demise because they disagree with your particular choice of syntax? Nope; not likely. Are they going to laugh at you, ridicule you, deride you, and make you feel terribly insignificant? Only if you let them. While you are on stage, at the podium, on top of the bar, soapbox, ladder, chair or other means of elevation, you rule them. You own the audience. You are controlling their time for the length of your address, and in the vast majority of situations, they will sit politely and patiently for you to make your point and let them get on with their lives. If that is all you accomplish, then yes, you may take a little verbal abuse. This is solved by nothing more than practice, experience, and technique (ask any comedian). There's nothing in that tool bag you cannot acquire or accomplish on your own or with a little help. Are they going to throw rotten fruit and vegetables at you? See the note to choice of syntax above. Wait, wait, this can be a separate fear too, but it is as unlikely also unless you happen to find yourself trapped in the 1600's and playing to a packed house of groundlings at the Black Friar or Globe theatres. Really, most people are more civilized than they typically seem to be. The only real fear is that second one...how they receive you (they being your audience). You may find yourself humiliated, or shamed. You may come off like a babbling idiot, but these are things you control. Find a speaking coach, mentor, or teacher, and drag every last thing out of him (or her) he (or she) knows about disseminating information to a group of people. And then practice it. You don't get good at things that make you afraid, and you don't remain afraid of things you practice. The unspoken benefit of practice is that it will support and defend everything I've told you here.
Fear of Death: (Thanatophobia)
Now, why did I start with that talking thing rather than the very serious subject of death? Oh, right, for about the past fifty years the fine people of the Gallup organization have done a regular poll to find out what scares people the most. Without exception people would sooner die than get up in front of a few people and talk. We've dealt with the talking thing.
So, onward to death (aren't we all). First, you can't stop it. Second you can't avoid it. Third, well, there is no third. Does there need to be? Death is an inevitable for us all. We all know it is going to happen. Some of us unfortunately find out through observation sooner than others, often sooner than we are prepared to learn. That's another matter. So, you can't do anything to stop it. You can't do anything to avoid it. What other options do you have? One, only one:
Make the most of the time you have.
I know, it sounds cliche, but cliches become cliches because there is truth in them.
If you want to waste that time being afraid of what you can't stop and can't avoid, it's your time to waste, and unequivocally it is a waste of time. Live your life, don't fear the loss of it. That's not to imply you should go out and start doing stupid things I shudder to even suggest here. Focus on all the things around you that are important Right now, I am writing this while looking out the window at the rest of the sixteen new inches of snow waiting for me to shovel it and thinking to myself, "Self, you made a good choice sitting here writing to the scardy cats of the world rather than giving yourself a heart attack trying to move all that beautiful white snow." And, I have to agree with myself. Won't you too? In the words of Cousin Vinnie, "I'm done wit' dat guy."
Fear of Pain: (Algophobia)
Okay, pretty rational fear. No one likes pain (okay, there are those who do, but that's a completely different category that requires a completely different treatment), but there are only two things you can do with pain: avoid the activity that causes it, or treat it.
Sure, there are those conditions that cause unavoidable and largely untreatable pain. I know, I experience one of them nearly every day, neuropathy. Many people don't know what that is. Bear with me, most of what I have to go on is observation, and I have been observing myself for a very long time. It's a simple thing really, as a diabetic, high blood glucose levels have begun to damage nerve fibers. This causes (at times and in my case) severe pain in my right foot and leg--feels like stepping on a hot nail (been there, different story). There is no treatment for it. Pain killers are just ineffective. Once it has started, it is inevitable. Why do I share? To make a point. I know of what I speak.
So how do I deal with it? If you have ever played organized sports (you know, with a coach and equipment and rules), you probably heard your coach bark out the old tired refrain, "TAKE THE PAIN! PLAY THROUGH IT!" Well, that's one option. Only one Iand those in my shoes (yeah, bad pun) have actually. No pity, I do fine. Thanks though. Here's my point: if I had not been stupid in my youth and not chased Coke slurpees with sugar packets and Snickers bars, I would not be limping around today with a red hot spike through my foot. Who is to blame for my pain? Me. No one else.
That's not to say that every pain we experience is by our own hand, even if the end is justified by the means decades after the fact. Just that those which are, those you can avoid, you can run from, you can hide from, you should; don't run toward what is going to cause you pain later in life. There is enough of it already when you get there, no need to bring more with you. How you do that is a question you must solve. The best way is to avoid it before it becomes a problem. If, like me, it's too late, but you still need help, get help. If you can't find help, ask....hello! Question/Answer site here. The Internet is full of resources and so is your local healthcare provider.
Okay, who sees the discrepancy here, the apparent error? Anyone? Remember this? "...those you can avoid, you can run from it, you can hide from." No? It's right there, couple of lines up. Good now, you can avoid it. I know, I said once the nerve damage starts, it's too late. The same is true for a number of medical conditions that result in pain. For those who suffer from conditions like my type 2 diabetes, you just have use a little forethought. What's that? Thinking ahead....literally...look it up.
Type 2 diabetes is not the only legacy of my misspent youth. My knees are pretty much a mess. (Why is this guy sharing all this? --hang on, there is a point). While serving in the Army, I fell off every truck in our motor pool. Why? Because I didn't take the time to ask for help. Also, I made a habit of carrying everything at once (Break-out bag, clothing duffle, rifle with M203, M-60, T&E bag, Tripod for the M-60, and ammo cans--roughly 200 lbs--down four flights of stairs--two stairs at a time--and several hundred yards to my truck in the motor pool) when ever we got called out on an alert. Why? Was I trying to be a hero? Perhaps a little. but I didn't want to make two trips. Better to suffer a little and sit and rest, than to run back and forth repeatedly. Or so I thought at the time. I made the debt then for which I am writing the check now. Here comes that point: Youth in a hurry is retirement in pain. It is important to look ahead and not be that indestructible super kid.
Can't see the future. You don't need to. Just be informed about what your life choices now might hold for you in the future. Ten years from now. Fifteen years from now. Maybe even fifty years from now. If you continue to make the same mistakes, or live the same excesses now, you will pay for them in the future. The bill always comes due (more on bills in a bit). Maybe, just maybe, Big Pharm will make some miraculous breakthrough, and null and void your debt. Just don't bet on it. Think of that miracle pill instead as the lottery...if you count on it, expect to be struck by lightening while being eaten by a shark; the odds are better.
So what to do about pain? Avoid the things that cause it or lead to it. What about the pain that is the result of a condition you had no hand in causing? If you can't avoid it, try to minimize how much pain you are likely to experience, now and with an eye to the future. If that doesn't work or can't be done, find the treatment you need to minimize the pain you experience. If that doesn't work (like for me), find a way to embrace it, own it, take it, turn it into something else. That's all you get from me on that, I'm truly sorry; I can do it for myself, but I have no idea how I do it. I'm no Great American Hero though. If I can take a shot to the foot, you can take a splinter.
All joking aside. For the pains that are greater and totally unavoidable and largely or completely untreatable, all I can suggest is find faith. If you have it already, embrace that.
Fear of Loss: (Multiple - Monophobia, generallyVerlustaphobia)
This one is tougher. We have all lost something or someone and grieved. Be it a favorite belonging, a pet, a friend, a loved one,--God forbid--a child. This fear I take more seriously, and I will open up a little more about it. So forgive me.
I've lost four grandparents, five uncles, three aunts, six friends, and a niece. Of all of these, the one that has affected me the greatest, but not the most recent, was (I edited that later, the "was". I still think of her death in the present tense) the death of our niece two years ago on Christmas Eve. There is not a day goes by, that some random thought of her does not cross my mind. Which leads to thoughts of my wife's grief, my son's and daughters' grief, her mother and father's grief, and all others who loved her. There is no truth to the cliche, "Time heals all wounds." It doesn't. All time does is provide distance from what caused the wound, to give us space to heal if we can find a way. I could dwell on how she died, but that would dishonor her. Not that she passed in a dishonorable way...it was a simple traffic accident caused by slushy roads. It would dishonor her because she was so much more than the event of her death. She was the burning gem stone of the family; no one could be angry or fight when she was around. She loved music; listening, playing, and sharing it. She loved writing; partly, it's for her that I do these longer answers. She loved to read. She loved to make people happy. She was good at it. She was the sweetest, most dear, precious, and genuine soul I have ever known. And, she will always be with me and everyone she knew...in our memories.
You cannot run from this fear; you can only face it--when it comes--and turn it to what it should be. It hits like a thousand foot tsunami; it takes your breath; it steals your anchor; it hurts like no other pain in human experience; but, you can survive, if necessary by leaning on the strength you remember they had. Let each day come and go. Keep moving, forward preferably. Let their passing be a memorial, a celebration of a life lived well if all too short. Tell someone who never had the chance to meet them who they were and what they were like. I don't know if this pain ever fades, but the distance of time makes it less immediate.
Fear of Taxes/Debt: (Debitaphobia)
Okay, hopefully I haven't brought the room down too far. Back up, on your feet!
Why did I put these together, taxes and debt? Because they are the same thing, just paid to different people. Uncle Sam will get his. You can't hide it; he will find it. You can't dodge him; he will find you. You can't avoid paying him (different choice than the hiding thing); he'll just come and take you instead. So, just pay your taxes, or find a legal way to reduce what you have to pay, and still pay them. It's the only choice you have.
Regular bill? Well, for one thing, get ahead of the game and figure out what you need and what you want. Odds are you will find a great disparity between the two (if you're honest--no, you don't need that venti double no fat whipped soy latte; you want it), the smaller pile being the needs. Now, pay for the needs. The wants? If you already have them and have not paid for them yet, return them if you can. If you can't, sell them. If you can't sell them, donate them and get a break on that tax thing. About paying for them, here's the thing: collections has a lot of tricks and tools to use to separate you from your money for the things you bought but did not pay for. The important part is that provided you did it in good faith with no thought, motivation, or intent to defraud, they cannot put you in prison for it. They can't really do much to you at all (especially if you live in a state like Louisiana). If you have assets (cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) they can attach them (except in Louisiana and like states). Don't ask how here, that's a different question for WikiAnswers. If you have property, they may be able to take it. May! Not can. It's up to a judge. Here's the other thing: if you have the money, you can pay it, if you don't you can't. Simple math. Plus/minus kind of stuff. Here's the last thing though. You did buy it on good faith, you really need to pay for it. Stay in touch with them and try to work it out. Chip away at the debt in small increments, and eventually it will get paid. Most importantly, don't get buried under it again.
Fear of People/Authority: (Anthropophobia)
This is an extension of stranger-danger, an observation and recognition that someone among your tribe does not belong, is not normally there, and may be a threat. Animal instinct. One of the fundamental bases of racism.
Or, this is the recognition that you are in a totally alien space (not the mother ship--again a different sort of fear that requires science I do not have). The recognition that you will be perceived as the outsider, the potential threat, the one who is eliminated. Animal instinct.
The only way to overcome this is to examine every situation individually. I cannot provide you a road map to accomplish this, it was your parents' job, and if they dropped the ball, I don't have the space here or the time to devote to it on a strictly voluntary basis to guide you to it. It took me a while to learn it myself anyway. Remember that fight or fight response of mine mentioned way up there at the top? Yeah, way too many avoidable conflicts in my past to judge anyone. This is all strictly observation.
There is something you can do until you can find a way to learn the skills you need, or someone to teach you, and it might be your strategy for finding the latter. There must be someone in your life you trust, as much as anyone can trust another. Talk to this person about this fear. Name it. Label it. Analyze it until you can smell it coming from a dozen New York blocks away (visual...um, olfactory...enough?) Okay, that person may fit the bill for your mentor. If she does not share the fear or especially if she has dealt effectively with the fear in her past (I use the nontraditional feminine pronouns her on purpose--women tend to be better judges of character. I know, generalization, but meant to be a good one, a compliment). Once you begin to develop the skills necessary to more effectively determine who may and may not be a threat, it will get easier, and come faster. Again, exercise it, just not in risky situations. You just don't jump off a cliff until you know that you know how to fly.
I put people and authority figures together because by and large they stem from the same root. They differ in that typically, an authority position puts someone a few steps ahead of the average stranger. In the world of today, it is still important to keep your eyes open and your senses aware for the signs that tell you, "Get the flock out!"
Teachers, heathcare professionals, and professional service providers fall into one category, We'll call them Category A. The second group I identify as the government, Uncle Sam, Big Brother (all conspiracy theories aside), law enforcement we'll call Category G. Individuals from each group can switch categories from time to time based on the specific elements of a given situation, or your interaction with them. If you are an illegal drug user or a wounded fugitive and you go for treatment at a hospital, the A's you see there are potentially G's. Not really a threat, but be aware for the sake of illustration. If you, that fugitive, is met in your wheelchair at your discharge from the hospital, and escorted off to the hotel behind the wire, one of the A's was a G. Incidentally, that guy who you aren't paying who stands beside you in court (your public defender) because you were a fugitive in the first place is really a G, but for the immediate exercise is an A. You get me? Confusing, I know. It takes practice. What is the point to all the A/G stuff?
Well, by and large, you can trust those in group A; they are doing the job they do to help individuals like you and me and everyone else. For the most part, again conspiracy theories and past US history aside, A's and G's are there to help you. They may have very different motivations, but they are not generally going to be a threat. That is of course as long as you are playing the game as it was meant to be played by the rules it was designed to be played. Deviate in the slightest way and the rules may change. More or less depending on how far you deviate. Provided you stay off the radar, you can trust most of the people in group G. Remember though that they serve a higher power, Uncle Sam, and your individual interests are not going to be high on their list of important stuff. They are more externally motivated. Something else, just to complicate the issue, people from both group A and group G are just that--people. They are human and subject to the same weaknesses and failings of every other human. They make mistakes. They become selfish, egocentric, and self-serving, just like everyone else can. It is this that you need to be aware and wary of.
Need I say more?
Yep. One other class of "people." The opposite gender. Most commonly this is felt keenest during the middle school years, by some a little before, by some a little after. How do you conquer it? Just stop it. This is an animal reaction again. Look around you at those who are paring up. They use a combination of fighting their fear of public speaking and Stranger Danger. If you are attracted, tell her. Truth is she is potentially more scared of you than you are of her. (Girls, he is absolutely more scared of you than you are of him)---(Boys, I just told them that to set them at ease so they wouldn't just bolt when you stumble up).........(Um, Girls, you already know the truth, give him a break).
Fear of Change/the Great Unknown: (Cenophobia)
Ouch! that's a big one. And, it gets bigger the further down the miles we go.
You've heard the tired old metaphor, "Change is good." If not, you just read it. For the majority of situations it is. How much influence we have on change, the big change that goes on around us every minute of the day, is basically the stuff of country road dust, and that faint whiff of perfume you catch at the mall. Seems real, but try to grab it (I don't mean the girl wearing the perfume or the sales person pump the air with it--the smell). Can't quite pinch it, can you. Same thing as change.
Another crusty metaphor, "Change is a wave that roars through time," or something to that affect. Who said it? I claim it until I am proven otherwise. Also a true one. Ask any surfer; there are two things you can do with a wave:
See how simple this stuff is? Especially when I break it down to two's and three's?
Riding the wave of change doesn't mean that you just get dragged along by it's momentum. Look at it this way, arguably one of the world's greatest surfers is eight time world champ Kelly Slater. You can find countless videos on the net of him doing what he does. Magical. You don't see him perched on top of a wave like a bobblehead doll on the dash board of your '67 Plymouth Fury sedan. Noooo! Slater is an artist. He carves, he cuts, he disappears and reappears from certain destruction. How, simple, he makes the wave work for him.
How do you do that with the wave of change? Well, again, you're on your own. Sorry. No one can give you that answer. It's your life, you see the wave, you have to learn it and master it, make it your slave. Just, never forget, it's all an illusion. No, that's not defeatist. That's awareness. Don't give up; take it as a challenge.
The Great Unknown is just another word for the wave of change. You might be able to get little teases of what is in front of you through the spray, you might pop out of the pipe long enough to get a pretty good idea of what's out there. Again, what you do falls to choice:
You either, choose to ride it out or shift direction...
You pump and potentially get ground into paste or whacked in the head by your board.
Surfers, do me a favor and spread the word. I apologize if I mangled the language. I claim poetic license (closest I ever got to surfing was living five miles from Huntington Beach from 6 to 10 years old).
Needles/Sharp objects: (Aichmophobia)
This one is incredibly simple. When I served in the Army in Germany, a friend of mine in the unit was a medic. She taught me the secret to needles. Again, two things:
Just relax. Most people who will come at you with a needle fall into that Category A.
Fear of sharp objects is even easier to deal with or should be. You mom should have taught you not to run with scissors; when you pass a knife or scissor type object to another person, hand it to them handle first, blade held opposite to your palm; and finally, Don't Run With Scissors! Three things this time. Okay, busted two really, I was just testing to see if I still have you.
Almost to the end.
Regret really isn't a fear, but it is very close. One can have fear of regret though. That is, we can fear doing something wrong, or not doing something right and living with the regret of for the rest of our lives. Think about it for a minute: ever regret not giving that girl a kiss on your first date? Not telling someone, "I love you," only to learn that they are no longer with us? What about that friend you lost because you didn't say, "I'm sorry?" How about the time you did not stand up for someone who needed your help to be stronger? We all have regrets. What we do with them is another matter, and can help reduce or eliminate the fear associated with them.
Here's the thing; again two parts:
Big picture, there is typically very little you can do about the things you regret. They are done. They are in the past. And, until those who work with physics learn how to make a wormhole to the past, you won't be able to change it. (There is an argument that states that the past is fixed, so even when they iron out that wormhole thing, you may still not be able to change anything). It is best to recognize this as soon as possible. The only thing you can do with the past is remember it and learn from it. Okay, three things, you can carry that regret around as it gets heavier and heavier until it buries you, ultimately destroying everything about you and your life. Sound like a pleasant option? Right, it doesn't. So, if you are carrying the regret around, how do you get out from under it? There is only one way (see how easy I make this?):
Come to terms with the fact that the past is the past and determine that what ever you did then will not happen again. Own it. Know it. Leave it behind.
If you cannot do this on your own, ask for help. There are countless skilled counselors out there who specialize in this sort of stuff. Do some research and find one. You may have to ask many people before you can find the one for you, but it can be done. Talk to friends, family, a minister, anyone you think might have an opinion on this. Those who tell you that psychological counseling is bunk, leave them behind and keep looking. Let me share a little something else: I used to look down on all forms of psychology. I thought it was a bunch of people who were trying to make us think what they thought was the only right answer. There may be some psychological professionals who do feel this way, who try to get everyone else on board with them. Not all though. Psychology is really a very young science, and little is known about the workings of the human mind. But, if you have been observing people, really watching them, you may know a lot more about psychology than you thought. Give them a chance, drop your bias, and see if they can't help you.
Sorry my friends. This one I share. What I know is that, for me at least, the fear isn't about being at altitude, it isn't about falling, it's about the landing at the end. This is rooted in the experiencial for me, an SCF. I fell off a roof twenty years ago and compressed three vertebrae. As a direct result, I'm a little more protective of those squished vertebrae. I still love to fly, take the window seat when I can get it. I'll even go up heights provided I have something around me to hold on to (fools me into believing I have control). I don't do step stools, ladders, or stairways without handrails. I'd sooner take the window washer's lift to the top floor.
So, the big secret, fight or flight; if you can't beat it, run from it. No really, look at it with a little more dignity; if it is a situation with which you feel discomfort due to your lack of immediate control simply take measures to avoid it.
The Dark: (Achluophobia, Lygophobia, Myctophobia, perhaps Nyctohylophobia, Nyctophobia, orScotophobia)
This one is a little more difficult. Not really. Unless you live in the Last House on the Left, next door to the Myerses, on the shores of beautiful Crystal Lake, or in the abandoned but not yet cleared remains of a mine field, there is nothing in the dark to fear. It's the same place as in the light, just without the light. Really, not trying to be insulting (quite the contrary), blind people do it every day of their lives and I understand that many of them (most) are quite self-sufficient and more than a little successful. And, they have a "limitation."
If all else fails carry a pocket flashlight, and make sure the batteries are fresh.
There can never be a final word on this subject. We still have spiders, snakes, the boogie man, the monster under your bed, alien abductions, ghosts, EMP, the end of civilization, etc. No, wait. By and large many those are irrational fears. Irrational fears do not fall to logic. Different sort of kung fu. Those of you who have them, have to get professional help, perhaps commercial pharmaceuticals to make them go away. I'm not that sort of professional, and I can't legally write a 'script. Sorry.
A brief word about EMP and the end:
With the exception of EMP and the end of civilization, there is little you can do about these other fears beyond dealing with them and learning to live. Well, oddly enough that's all you can do about EMP and the end of civilization too.
If you are independently wealthy, you can buy a Cold War era missile silo, and have it converted into a survival bunker. You can outfit it with the latest and greatest of survival equipment and supplies. The problem is, you will have to poke your head out of the ground eventually, and someone who did not have your resources who also survived may be there waiting to take it all away from you. Odds are, the vast majority of the population in this bloated, pampered society we enjoy in the US will be dead within the first year after the collapse of our infrastructure, estimated 60-80% (210,000,000 to 280,000,000 for those of you without your calculator handy). For those of you who do survive, that's a lot of bodies to bury. I know, macbre, but facts are facts.
Not that I wish to fuel hysteria, but you have to wonder if survival would be enviable; in the event of the end, things will come apart and do so fast. Look at the evidence of Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Truth be told, there is absolutely nothing you or anyone not in a high level of government can do to stop the end of civilization. There are some precautions you can take for you and yours, but to what end? This like most fears is one that you just have to learn to live with. (Yeah, I intended a pun there.)
So, save your water (remember to replace it every couple of months if it's from the tap. Purchase your purification systems and your chlorine tabs. Hoard your food, white alcohol, gold, guns, and ammunition--keep an eye on Federal Firearms Laws--and dig your bunkers. If that is what it takes to give you peace of mind, be happy. Just remember, last one alive has to throw dirt in the face of those of us who didn't make it.
A final final word:
The failure to face fear is commonly thought of as cowardice. I need to make a distinction here. If the fear is based on a real danger, then avoiding it or running away may be a matter of self-preservation and there is no shame in self-preservation. True cowardice is the result of refusal to examine a fear for real danger and simply responding by running away. If you fear kittens, never examine it, and leap through the air and run at the slightest hint of a meow, that is cowardice. There is a reason to face the thing you fear, it is wise to keep an eye to what is dangerous, because then you knowwhen to duck and cover.
There's another way to think of it: I have a friend who lives out west. He likes to hike in the woods. Bears also like to hike in the woods. Most bears will run from people. Some won't. He shared with me how you deal with the stubborn ones. If you are on a hill, run down. Seems bears have those big hind legs that help them stand to get at things in trees, but they are not suit well for running down hills and they often go toes over nose when they try. If you are not standing on a hill when you encounter Yogi with an attitude, climb a tree and hope it isn't a brown bear (brown bears climb trees--Oh! and grizzlies are just big brown bears). If it is a brown bear, and you can't know without looking, and you can't look without facing it, you have a couple of options and a short time to choose. You can look as big as possible and be very loud and hope you intimidate him, which may not work. You can play dead and hope he did not see you or is not interested. You can carry a gun for protection and hope you have the guts to face down a charging Kodiak and can put it down in one shot, because if you don't, you're only going to make him mad.
Or, you can stay out of the woods. Sort of makes that kitten a little less scary. Fear is relative.
I am not suggesting that anyone can make fear go away, no one can be fearless. Fearlessness is just a word. It is a concept that does not exist in the real world. It may seem that I imply that I do not have fears. Nothing could be further from the truth. I experience fear too. How I deal with fear is another matter. No one can ever be truly fearless, they just cannot stop being afraid. What they can do is to take that fear and use it instead of letting it use them.
It all starts in the same way: Face it, literally and figuratively. It? Yes, It, what ever you fear, public speaking, death, taxes, the dark, that kitten, or a bear. Start there and breathe. That's it. If you're still lost after that, you can always ask another question. We're still a Q&A site.
Well, told you a few lines up that we were almost to the end, and here it is. Just remember your ones and twos, your A's and G's; oh! and never forget the KISS principle.
What? I forgot to mention the KISS principle? Yeah, I did, because everyone should have heard of it by now. Just in case, I'll tell you anyway:
Complicating it accomplishes only that...it makes it more complicated. Remember to breathe. That, and never hesitate to ask.
Fear is a hard thing to conquer. You have to be logical. If you face your fears and tell yourself what is logical or realistic instead, you will stop being afraid. For example, if your mind says "There's a monster in the closet," you can say "Realistically, nobody has ever found a monster in any closet in the world" or "Logically, that shadow is my raincoat, not a monster."
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