Fear-setting

fear(Pic found on Pinterest)

There are many things in my life now that I wish I’d known before I learned the hard way. First, people hide their evil natures behind a lying, religious persona far more often than your preacher will ever admit. Second, science is true and faith is an empty, vain attempt to make yourself smarter than educated people. Third, fear-setting is more effective than goal-setting.

I learned about fear-setting about two weeks ago. The story Tim Ferriss tells on his TED talk is enough to make anyone who’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness and suicidal tendencies sit up and take notice.

Ferriss suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. He has had regular bouts with major depression. and he doesn’t shrink back from describing them.

In his TED talk he explains the way he’s helped himself work through that struggle. Surprisingly, it’s to name your fears instead of your goals.

Now, I will be honest with you, if Ferriss didn’t have BPD and hadn’t struggled with suicidal tendencies, I’d never listened to the rest of his speech after he said that. I would have rolled my eyes at the typical entrepreneurial BS that I read on blogs of people who haven’t a clue what it’s like to face the internal hell.

But to have someone who’s been in my shoes argue FOR naming your fears, that was something I had to at least listen to even if I never followed what he was teaching.

When you have PTSD/C-PTSD, fear is often all you know. I supposed it can be that way for BPD and SAD and all the others as well. My fears immobilize me. They literally make me curl up in bed all day. And there is no real way to overcome them. At least, it seemed that way.

See, when someone asks a person with PTSD “What are your fears?” they rarely want more than to say “Well, that’s ridiculous.” Really, I get this all the time. “Be realistic, nothing like that will ever happen. You need to get over it.”

So, I didn’t click the little x in the corner or skip over to watch a Bullet Journal video, I sat and waited to see what this guy who sat in his van with a gun to his head had to say that might help me.

Then he threw the second whammy out.

“Stoicism.”

While I have already learned that Stoicism is quite popular amongst Atheists, I’ve never been a particular fan. But, as soon as I thought this I realized that all I knew of Stoicism is what other people had told me Stoicism is…not unlike Atheism.

So, I took another deep breath and listened some more.

Through the writings of Seneca, Ferriss came across the idea of basically thinking out all your fears to their worst case scenario. Fortunately, Ferriss parses this very quickly because he nearly lost me there. As he goes on to say, people like us are always doing that.

Give me a scenario, any scenario, and I can tell you all the worst outcomes.

Is your friend late meeting you? She’s dead from a car accident, which she wouldn’t have been in if she hadn’t been coming to meet with you.

Is your kid late from school? He’s been kidnapped and murdered and it’s all your fault for making him ride his bike to school instead of taking and picking him up.

Believe it or not, it’s all downhill from there. (I think that’s what made religion so appealing…worst case scenario, you go to hell. Yeah, that’s perfect for intensifying your neurosis.)

But, like I said, he didn’t end there. He created a method to work through those fears.

I wish I’d had this method a long time ago. Definitely months before today when my past fears came back to haunt me in the form of a $300 bill that I really don’t have the money for.

In Ferriss’s method, I would have listed all my fears about doing this thing months ago. I would have written everything that could go wrong if I did this thing when I should have. Of course, you would never have understood my fears because most normal people don’t have the types of fears I do. (Trust me, and maybe one day I’ll share them.)

After I listed them I would have listed everything I can do to prevent those things from coming true (irony in the case of some of my fears). And if his idea stopped there, as far too many of these list makers do, I would still have been screwed.

But then he goes further and you list what to do if prevention doesn’t work. This step is usually not in the idea list of what to do when facing fears. Probably because most people think like I described above and believe that if you just list your fears and how you can prevent them from becoming reality, you’ll see how foolish you are.

Come to think of it, those people must be totally out of touch with reality…but I digress.

He goes on to talk about the next idea you need to work through, which is considering a partial success or just an attempt…what would the benefits be.

Well, in my case, I would have saved myself a lot of money with even a partial success…or I’d have at least developed confidence.

The best part is the end. What is the cost of inaction? In 6 mos? In 1 yr? In 3 yrs?

Of course, in my case today, the cost of inaction was $300.  But in other situations it will obviously be different. I like that he went all the way out to three years. I don’t like to think that far ahead and have only recently been able to do so (only because it will take me four years to finish school and everyone keeps asking what I’ll do then).

But thinking that far out can be really helpful when faced with bigger decisions than the one I faced and failed to make. While it turned out to be only six months before I had to face the music, a lot of other decisions can have longer term effects.

I know I’ve only just started using this but so far it has helped more than anything else in facing my fears. I’ve tried the lists and, as good as some of my therapists have been, they’ve only taken this so far, and then they felt that was enough.

I don’t know if I could have done this as “Pre-test” Sara. I might have not truly understood how much power I have. I don’t know if I could have figured out any solutions for any of my problems.

But I might have, simply because this idea came from someone who totally gets it, knows what it’s like to have given up on life and come three hairs from pulling that trigger.

Watch the video. Ferriss obviously explains it better than I do. Let me know if it helps.

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