Fear is Just a Chemical

This is Pure Fear. Not quite as scary as you imagined, is it?

This is Pure Fear. Not quite as scary as you imagined, is it?

I had a pretty scary dream the other night.

My son and I were sitting on the floor in our basement, building a fort out of interlocking foam squares. Except in this dream version of our basement, I had built the house just a little bit out into the ocean, and the foundation out of sheets of thick glass so you could see the whales and fish swimming around you whenever you were down there.

Except there had been a flaw in the design and at this moment we heard a deep, sickening Cracking Glass sound, followed by the immediate rush of thousands of tonnes of water rushing in to the basement and filling it up. I looked into my son’s frightened eyes as he looked into mine, and grabbed him to get ready to swim. But even then I knew there was a good chance we were about to drown together.

Thankfully I woke up right at that moment. My heart was pounding and I was still as scared as hell.

My foot was poking out of the bottom of the blanket. Danger! Anything out there could bite your foot off!” I pulled it in for safety.

My upper body was still out of the blankets. “Danger! That part of you is exposed to predators as well! Make no sudden moves, and slowly cover yourself up.”

By this point, I had been awake for a few seconds and was starting to come to my senses.

“Ok, idiot. Relax. You just had a dream. Look! You’re safe in bed and more importantly little MM is still sleeping like an angel in his own bed down the hall.” I felt a rush of joy realizing that everything was still fine.

But my heart was still going hard, and I suddenly found myself worrying about the strangest things.

“It’s raining outside. Is the roof going to leak? Did I leave anything outside? Is the rental house OK? Did I forget to do anything important that is now overdue? Am I really prepared for that Ecuador trip in a few weeks?”

As the minutes passed and I thought about what was going on, I realized something profound and useful: that fear and worry are really just chemical responses. Here I was, intellectually aware that everything was just fine, prosperous and safe. But at the same time, my emotions were screaming out in fear and worry as I laid in bed for those first few minutes.

If you have ever done any casual reading on health and wellness, you probably already know this – for various reasons, your body will sometimes decide to squeeze the ol’ Cortisol and Adrenaline bottles into the blood stream. It’s the Fight or Flight stuff that happens to all of us animals. But only by feeling it on such a visceral level and watching myself turn into a cowering crazy man under the blankets, did I realize how powerful it is, and how much it affects us in even in daily life.

The revelation was even more apparent as the hormones cleaned themselves up from my bloodstream and I was able to smile again and fall back asleep. And the next time I woke up, I had the opposite feeling about life in general.

The sun was peeking through the shutters, birds were singing in the trees around my bedroom window, and it was start of another grand day with no alarm clock or mandatory work.

“Wow, beautiful morning out there. I am sure glad we got that rain last night, the gardens will love it. And look at this fine house, is it really mine? What!? I just realized I also have a rental house that is happily taking care of itself. And I sure am looking forward to that Ecuador trip.. what a blast. What an amazing life!”

My whole perspective of the exact same set of life details had completely changed within the span of a few hours, from standard happiness, to extreme worry, and back to gratitude. Just because of the secretion of a microscopic quantity of some damned hormones I didn’t even ask for in the first place.

There’s a lot to be gained in life by thinking about this, and reminding yourself at every moment possible.

Are you scared to apply for a new job, switch careers, or search for a new house in a better location? That’s not because it’s a truly scary thing to do. It’s because there is a drop of liquid about as big as a flea that has been squirted in to your blood stream and is making you just slightly scared. And it’s not helping you.

About 100 people wrote me comments and emails asking me hysterically why I was seen on Yahoo wearing a fishing hat instead of a crash helmet when biking around my quiet neighborhood. The reason is because those little fear chemical bottles don’t squirt for me when I ride a bike. Because, like most things in life, it’s not worth being afraid of.

I have recently heard from people who are afraid to invest their cash or use it to pay off a mortgage, afraid to take it out of the “safety” of a guaranteed-loss-after-inflation 1% savings account. Other people are afraid to quit or even scale down their jobs, despite having several times the savings needed to live forever off of the passive returns. Afraid to try new things, afraid to make the stretch to invite a new friend over for dinner, afraid of the imaginary doom and gloom that will be brought down upon us by this government or the next one.

Your assignment, then, is to notice and remind yourself that all fear, unless it involves rapidly moving weapons, teeth, or claws, is actually bullshit. All fear can be cured. You can attack it with the mind, by imagining those little squirty bottles located right above the kidneys, laughing at them, and shutting them off.

And you can attack it with the body, by just doing what you’re afraid of. And suddenly, it won’t be scary, and you’ll laugh at your wimpy past self. Because oddly enough, Action Cures Fear. 

It’s one of the most useful things you can learn as early as possible in life, and I wish this had been drilled into me as a young child. It’s more important than arithmetic or chemistry class or calculus. So that’s your assignment for this weekend – cure one of your own fears, and come back on Monday a bit richer.

Update: in the comments section below, it looks like we have spawned yet another bike helmet safety debate. While this in itself is a little off-topic, I am always was especially intrigued by the inevitable comments that come in with graphic descriptions of head injuries. “In the newspaper, they said there was blood all over the pavement!”, “my aunt works in the ER..” and other such entertainment.

This is the perfect illustration of fear as it should NOT be applied to decision making. Scary stories are of no use to youonly scientific studies of large groups have any hope of helping you decide what activities are actually dangerous. And thus, I tend to delete irrelevant scary stories from this comments section, just as I avoid them in real life, because they are not helping. My apologies and remember that your own blog awaits as a place for all the scariest stories you can muster!

  • John August 24, 2013, 10:29 am

    Nothing to fear but tiny chemical sprayers themselves! Good article. My favorite part of the TED talk was the babies wearing helmets indoors. Very humorous. Maybe we can get to a point where our children no longer experience anything from their childhood in the real world of getting bumps/scraps. That way, someone from atop Mt. Bullshit can make a digital game that simulates these experiences and market it to parents who are afraid to let their kids do anything! Oh wait, we already have the Wii. Crazy.

  • NestingFish August 24, 2013, 10:45 am

    Great article MMM. I’ve been thinking about this concept lately because I recently challenged myself to do a little high-altitude scrambling – something that used to terrify to me. Normally when hiking with my husband, I hike to the point where I’m no longer comfortable, then wait around for an hour or so while he scrambles up to the very top. The other day we were on a hike where I was forced to scramble up a relatively exposed peak, and although I was definitely out of my comfort zone, I had an absolute blast! It was awesome to find out that I can, in fact, trust my body to safely get me where I want to go. It was also interesting to see that the scramble section I had initially been afraid of was actually pretty reasonable – almost like a staircase with built-in hand holds. I realized how irrational my fears were, and how much they had been holding me back. Now I can’t wait for my next opportunity to get some scrambling in!

    This example highlights how differently my husband and I were brought up where “fear” is concerned. His parents encouraged him to rock climb, ride his bike in traffic, and camp in grizzly country. They taught him what he needed to know in order to be safe, but more importantly, he was raised to feel comfortable in these situations, which opened up a whole world of incredible experiences for him to enjoy. In contrast, my parents were nervous nellies if there was even the smallest possibility of risk. We were told to stay far, far away from “the edge,” rather than taught how to navigate it safely. My parents have a fear-related anecdote for nearly every situation. “You’re camping in a remote place? I’ll never forget back in the 1970s when an entire family was murdered while camping…” or “Did you hear that there have been four people attacked by bears this summer? I wouldn’t be hiking there if I were you.” My parents are amazingly wonderful people, and obviously their “fear” comes from a place of loving us and wanting to protect us. I realize how much irrational fear I have as a result though, and it has definitely made me aware of what kind of outlook I want to transmit when my husband and I eventually have children of our own.

    Sorry for the long comment :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 24, 2013, 7:54 pm

      That is fantastic! Your husband must be pretty excited to have you joining him on the top of the peaks from now on. The scary part at the top with the loose rocks is always my favorite part of the climb.

  • Nancy August 24, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Life contains both bike accidents and economic downturns. While fear might not help in planning or dealing with these, prudent planning does. I wear the bike helmet, and in these strange frothy economic times, I have more of my money in cash than I would otherwise. It’s not fear, it’s experience and prudence.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 24, 2013, 7:49 pm

      Again I feel like a dangerous renegade – regardless of the state of the economy, I keep as little idle cash around as possible (although there’s always the possibility of selling shares or drawing from a line of credit if an amazing investment opportunity came up).

  • Jane Savers August 24, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Fear rules my life. It is hereditary. My grandfather was offered the chance to buy the row of townhouses he lived in and he had the cash in the bank to do it but he thought of all the things that could go wrong and continued to rent because that was safer. He rented his entire life.

    I try to take chances but the fear chemicals make my heart race and they make my head spin. My sons are risk takers and I have always encouraged them to take chances. I may not be able to overcome the fear but I am determined to break the hereditary cycle.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 24, 2013, 4:29 pm

      Wow Jane – that’s an intriguing self-diagnosis and a great goal for your own sons. I feel that my own Dad (I hope he doesn’t see this comment ;-)) has been a bit unproductively fearful in the past, and the habit almost cost him his own life at one point. But I believe all of us can become better at it – I was more of a chicken in the past compared to today, and hope to be less of one with each passing year.

  • Jimmy August 24, 2013, 5:51 pm

    Mr Mustache,

    Do you have a post that lists all of the items a family can reduce or all of the most common ones? Or maybe all of the items you have reduced in your budget that saved money? When you add up 25 small reductions it can become a large one, and a convenient list would be great!

  • winstongator August 25, 2013, 5:43 am

    Many of those people sitting on cash are the people running businesses. Corporate cash holdings are roughly double what they were 20 years ago, as measured by % of assets:

    If businesses aren’t investing, it’s easy to see why individuals would be hesitant. As for individuals’ cash hoards, you need to figure out at what rate you’d be spending your cash. If I don’t need to use money for 20-30 years, it is best in stocks. If I might need it tomorrow, then it should be in a low-risk account. Lots of room between those to asses your own situation.

  • Lucas August 25, 2013, 6:13 am

    There is a lot of truth to what you are saying about fear. However there is also something deeper then the emotion itself which you assume in describing your antidote.

    Emotions are our programmed response to our interpretation of external stimulus we encounter, but they are only as valid as our interpretation is true.

    Example: You are walking down the street with a local friend in a 3rd world country when a child about 1 comes toddling up to you with outstretched hands pleading for food. Your initial emotion is almost certain one of pity and sorrow for this child. However your local friend knows the truth that the parents of this child rented her out to professional beggars who pray on foreigners, feels more rage and injustice.

    Knowing and understanding the truth leads to the right emotions being exhibited. But the meaning behind the emotions must come from something beyond yourself (ie objective truth) or else all of them are meaningless. So your ending point is completely correct though that we need to expand our knowledge and understanding of the real truth to overcome/change our incorrect responses to the situations we encounter :-)

  • Chris August 25, 2013, 10:32 am

    I’ve struggled with analysis paralysis and fear in the past and still do from time to time. I always envision fear as the monster in a horror movie. The monster (Freddie Crouger, for instance) is always much more scary the first half of the movie, when it’s only being hinted at and not completely revealed. However, when the monster finally reveals himself, about 50% of the fear is gone. I try to treat problems in life like this. Things that intilmidate me, I envision as the monster, I tell myself to just turn and face them and deal with them. When I do, I typically find that I made a much bigger deal of the problem than I really should have. Do this enough times and a lot fear of tackling problems/challenges starts to subside.

  • texscrooge August 25, 2013, 3:07 pm

    No fear+ one YouTube video= fixed mower. For free.

  • Daniel August 25, 2013, 7:18 pm

    I’m fortunate enough to not have any irrational fears, not sure how I was lucky enough to avoid any of that. But I think part of that is why I wear a helmet if I’m riding my bike, I ride flat out, without fear, I backed off just yesterday heading down a hill at 40 mph, times like that are good for wearing a helmet, but falling off when you’re heading to the shops hitting 10mph is a different story. You need to know what it is you’re afraid of, at 40mph I thought, “I don’t need to go any faster, if I come off I might not be able to work for a while”, I’ve done it before at those speeds. But that was just weighing up a risk vs reward situation, fear wasn’t really a motivator for that one.
    People ask me why I’m pushing so hard to get financial independence, “What if something goes wrong?”, I’ll just start again, with more skills and knowledge than I had the first time, and if things go wrong for me, chances are the same will happen to everyone else, I play it all on statistics and take the sensible course of action, if something goes wrong I’ll still be alive, still enjoy all my cheap / free hobbies, nothing is worth getting stressed over.

  • JJ August 25, 2013, 7:52 pm

    This post is great!! The natural extension, of course, is that our body is just a big sack of chemicals so what is it that’s experiencing fear anyway? Is our mind just a chemical reaction? Hmmm…

  • Dunny August 25, 2013, 9:56 pm

    MMM, I couldn’t agree more. People cannot assess risk — compared to say the risk of eating junk food, not wearing a helmet is inconsequential. I work in a travel store, and have to assure and calm some customers who worry about all the dangers overseas, in countries that are much safer than Canada or the US. Indeed, if matches were invented today, they would be banned as far too dangerous.
    I bought a $1million house 2 weeks after I was downsized from my job of 20 years. Yes, I was afraid but the numbers worked and, 8 years later, I am retired and travel about 6 months of the year. I had to train myself not to be fearful and practise being an optimist.
    Three years ago, I took over direct management of my investment account and wish I had done it years ago. I am still learning, and read your blog and a few others to pick up tips on risk and strategies.
    Love your blog and comments.

  • cwebb August 26, 2013, 8:52 am

    I like the general sentiment. I’m working on overcoming my own financial fears, and occasionally basking in the liberating joy that comes with it. But… you invited the parental dogs of hell with the helmet comment. :) And it is somewhat counterintuitive to many of your other points. Wearing a bike helmet is an extremely passive habit that has no work, and all reward. Not far different from the driving habits that save you significant MPGs. Once you do them for a couple of weeks, you don’t even notice it. What’s the point of not doing it? And what’s next? Should I stop wearing my seatbelt in my car? Stop putting my daughter in a car seat? Weird stuff happens. I have a quality bike that I keep well maintained. I’ve had a brake wire snap while going down a steep hill. Let’s just say the helmet came in pretty handy that day.

  • Robin August 26, 2013, 8:56 am

    Great post, MMM. Fear can be paralyzing–it’s often the tiny start that mushrooms into many pathologies–hoarding, seclusion to the point of becoming a hermit, and many more. In the context of personal finances, your comment really hit home about having money in the 1% savings account instead of paying off the mortgage, and, to conquer that fear and trying to become more like you, we just took 1/3 of our stash in that 1 % account and prepaid the mortgage. Now we’re that much closer to paying it off….Thank you, MMM, thank you.

  • 9 O'clock Shadow August 26, 2013, 9:08 am

    Interesting dream. The phrase “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” came to mind. I imagine you’ve been subject to the dumbest vitriol on the Net against the life that you’ve built. If it was the basement, maybe you were concerned that something at the foundation of your philosophy was unsound, and that the tide of followers would come crashing in soon, taking your son with it.

    Your immediate thoughts after the literal interpretation that you and your son were drowning were of the ‘did I neglect something obvious?’ kind. I wonder if reading negative douchey posts on Reddit or elsewhere are easy to dismiss in the conscious mind, but ‘crack the glass’ unconsciously?

    I think ignoring that fear and burying it with false certainty is what turns a lot of open minded leaders into rigid prophets. The MMM site is tongue in cheek about badassity, but genuinely about self-reliance. The Ecuador trip sounded a touch prophety to me when it was first mentioned. If you do grow a beard and walk on water over there, maybe the first words to slack jawed followers could be “…this is a pretty good way to live. And if it goes tits up, you can handle that too.”

    • Melissa August 26, 2013, 7:55 pm

      OMG, I would love to be a fly on the wall at your house. I’d hang on every word, and laugh my ass off. I hope you write more than just comments on blogs.

      • 9 O'Clock Shadow August 27, 2013, 11:36 am

        Thanks Melissa; your comment made me feel richer already :)

        MMM must know that making people laugh makes you feel like a million bucks sometimes – thanks for the forum dude!

  • Freeyourchains2 August 26, 2013, 10:47 am

    I remember having a Double Nightmare before. You wake up from a nightmare to be back in your bed, then the lull of safety and security falls over you as you say you are “Ok!”, then…AHHH! A Monster comes out of the shadows right for you!

    You wake up frightened to death, then you panic more because you don’t trust the security of waking up from a dream, until several minutes go by and the lights are on, and all is well.

    If you have ever seen the movie Inception, this Double Nightmare makes me wonder how much time it seemed like was occuring in the first nightmare (6-8 hours?), then a minute in the next nightmare, then awoke. While i only slept for 2 hours.

    Either way, as you take action, fear comes to pass; and you become happy once again.

    It’s also like the book, The Count of Monte Cristo. Dantes is locked up for 8 years to be saved by a wise man who has been taking action the entire 12 years that he was locked up. He teaches Dantes how Not to Fear, and to use his priceless knowledge and intelligence to always take action in life.

  • phred August 26, 2013, 11:56 am

    While it has been phun reading about fear, and how to overcome it, I’m wondering if your subconscious is trying to tell you something. Have you inspected/worked on any foundations lately? You may have looked at some but failed to see what your mind is trying to get you to notice. Perhaps a quick lookover at the large addition you just built for a neighbor?

  • Michelle August 27, 2013, 8:41 am

    Hi all – I am new to the community. Strangely enough, I found out about MMM through a post on Gail Vaz Oxlade’s site. I am not financially independent, but several of the posts on the MMM site have really made a lot of sense and have kick-started some action in my life. No more sitting on my ass, waiting for something good to happen. I have to make it happen myself.

    I have seriously considered this particular post. I don’t ride a bike, but I more took this post as breaking down irrational fears to the reality of the situation. There are several unpleasant things going on currently in my life and I don’t have a lot of control over most of them, but I can control how I feel about them and I can control how hubby and I navigate through them. So thank you very much for your insight. I’m trying to catch up on old posts and take what applies to my life to use in a positive move towards badassidy. (Gads, I hope that was the right word.)

  • Giddings Plaza FI August 27, 2013, 11:26 am

    Fear is also a constant in the workplace. I’m currently on sabbatical, but my previous employer, where I worked for 15 years, was a cauldron of scared, paranoid people. Mostly good, smart, hard-working people, but scared of holding on to jobs, scared of being disrespected, scared of being stabbed in the back from their panicky co-workers. One issue was the review system (I bet you can guess the company–the review system is the baby of the CEO, who presumably is retiring any day now). But another issue is human nature–I think people behave fearfully in any organization. One solution is to examine your own behavior and make sure it’s based on values rather than fear. Another is to save money and become financially independent!

  • Amanda August 29, 2013, 4:37 am

    New reader here. I have to say, in the 2 days I’ve been reading, this site has done more for my mental health than years of “professional” opinions and cures.

    I’ve been reading this book lately:


    I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how our brains decide what to be afraid of, and the steps we can take to teach ourselves a more reasonable and healthy way to encounter the world. It’s full of delicious facts and common sense, and a great analysis of the way the media, corporations, and our personal squirty bottles combine to make us fearful.

    As someone who has battled crippling anxiety for most of my life and am just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m finding it an amazing read. And MMM managed to pack the gist of it into one blog post postscript. :)

  • Hope :) September 4, 2013, 11:38 am

    Thanks for this post (I’m a little behind the times — was on vacation for a couple of weeks!). Anxiety runs in my family, and it’s always heartening to remember that fear is really just, as you say, a couple of squirts from the ol’ Fight or Flight bottle. ;) Sometimes hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but always valuable knowledge to have. Thanks again.

  • Brian September 7, 2013, 7:31 am

    An abstract mental state (fear) is not reducible to a physical chemical. You’ve fallen into the fallacy of reification. By the same token, “happiness” could be claimed to be “just a chemical” and hence just as much “bullshit” as fear.

  • Steve-o February 21, 2014, 10:10 am

    This article had crazy relevance to me, even setting a goal for the weekend, as today is a Friday.

    But, after reading MMM talk about the clowns in their cars, I rode my bike 9 miles to work this morning. I teach at a high school that has several gangs in the area, mostly MS-13. It was dark out at 5am when I decided to take a shortcut – but not even my fancy gps could prevent me from making a wrong turn on the trail. I ran into some snow and had to get off my bike to walk for about 10 minutes.

    I’m 26, and 6’1, but felt like I wasn’t in a good spot.

    I could turn around, backtrack, and get to work late, or keep going and trust that no serial killers or random gangsters were hanging out at that hour. In the end nothing happened, and I pretty much forgot about it until reading this article.

    I’m not teaching next year, and am moving to Seattle this summer, where I’ve always wanted to live for some reason. But I have no job planned, no friends, and very little saved, so I’m reading this blog to try to get good ideas on how to survive on very little.

    That’s my life, haha.

    God Bless.

  • Denise December 17, 2014, 7:21 pm

    Fear definitely powerfully affects behavior, and can be a life-saving thing; thanks, Reptilian Brain!. It’s when it’s irrational that it hinders us in life. I’ve been reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and it’s full of interesting psychological studies regarding our reactive thought processes vs our rational, slower, more deliberate thought processes. It goes over some interesting topics like the power of priming, increased response time due to increased experience, heuristics, and the subconscious. If you haven’t read it already, do! And do it slowly… it demands a lot of mental digestion, particularly if you want it to improve yourself with the knowledge the studies reveal… nobody likes to think they’re part of the majority of lab rats who made the bad choice!

    You might even find some ideas to inspire more MMM articles! The book is full of “tricks” you can play on your mind, and also tricks that your mind plays on you, which might arm you with more ways to argue your mission to save the world against the Complainypants.

  • Bob February 22, 2016, 9:35 am

    There is a great book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker that I read about 10 years ago. It goes right along with the blog post and formalizes what you say here along with things you can do to live a worry free life (it includes never turning on the fear mongering TV news)

  • Chris Noll March 4, 2016, 6:16 pm

    On a sunny afternoon almost two years ago I was riding my bike down a dry street with no cars, potholes or large cracks. I just caught a refreshing glimpse of a couple attractive women walking on the sidewalk, and was happily cranking along at about 15 mph and WHAMMO! My chain jumped, causing my foot to slip off the pedal & lose balance, which jackknifed the handlebar, halting my bike’s forward momentum as my body hurdled down to pavement. I cracked my helmet, but not my skull. It took me a few minutes to sit up and get out of the street. Bystanders came to my assistance. A fire truck and ambulance showed up, but since I wasn’t concussed and not in a medical emergency, I declined taking a friendly ride in an ambulance to the ER and instead hobbled my way to a walk-in clinic.

    Here’s the deal – nobody at the walk-in clinic reported my case to the world database of bike injury statistics. I got an x-ray, was checked for internal bleeding and broken bones, and was sent home to take Ibuprofen and ice my wounds. If a helmet saves your ass you don’t go to the ER, how many of those people get counted by statisticians? Datasets are rarely perfect.

    Nobody is perfect or invincible, and I’m not unique. FOUR of my close friends & family members have had their asses saved by their helmet. How much is that smart brain of yours worth to you and everyone else? In comparison, feeling the wind through your hair is an idiotic luxury. A helmet is the worlds cheapest brain insurance, period.

    • Greg November 6, 2016, 9:38 am

      Totally agree, Chris. The risk may be small, but the consequences could be dire..

  • Carol Joos March 20, 2016, 11:44 am

    I want to share a truly amazing tool that I have used for years whenever I am feeling fearful, anxious, or worried, and that is The Work of Byron Katie, as laid out in her book, Loving What Is.
    The premise is that if you are feeling any of the above emotions/feelings, or even just a little down, a little negative, it’s because you’re fighting with reality, believing something that is not true. That’s easy enough to see, and it’s come up time after time in the comments I’m reading here. What Katie has done is lay out a very specific method for dealing with these feelings.
    The method is four questions to answer, and you do in in writing. First you write down what’s bothering you, for example, “my boss is giving me a hard time, and I don’t like my job, and I’m afraid to quit because what if I can’t get another job, and then I’ll run out of money and have to use up all my savings and….” You get the idea. And then you ask these four questions (you do all of this in writing, to keep yourself on track):
    1. Is it true? (and this doesn’t mean, is it true that you think this, but rather is this really going to happen?)
    2. In case you’ve said Yes, then the second question is, Can I absolutely know that this is true?
    3. How do you react when you think this thought? (it might be I have bad dreams, I can’t sleep, I sit and worry….etc.)
    4. What would you be without this thought–that is, if you actually could not think this thought, how would you feel and what might you be doing?
    And the last step is the turn-around: try stating for yourself exactly the opposite of what you stated in your problem description, and ask yourself if that could be just as true, or even more true.
    Katie says, in various places, “When I say God, I mean Reality…. When you fight with reality, you lose, only 100% of the time.”
    The book explains this much better than I can in this very short introduction…there are transcripts of lots of Work done with different people (she works with individuals in public, and has done so for years). There’s also a web site, with materials, videos of her working with people (the longest ones are the best, because they show you the whole process).
    I’d recommend getting the book, and maybe downloading some sample forms, but there is absolutely nothing you have to pay for. You don’t have to become a Byron Katie groupie, or join a group of people, or take training, or anything. You don’t have to get an appointment to see someone. If you can’t sleep because you’re worried, you don’t even have to wait until morning.
    All you have to do is learn to use this tool, remember that you have it, and then use it. (I’ve actually used it to get rid of ancient anger from the 1960s. Gone. Gone forever.) It will help you remain optimistic, intelligent, mobile, effective.
    Loving what is, by Byron Katie

  • Greg June 8, 2016, 2:05 pm

    “Action cures fear” is true under some circumstances. The action has to be appropriate, and well-considered.
    Example 1: I had an extreme fear of dating. I was counseled by a professional to go out there and push past my fear — to go ahead and date. Result: absolute clinically valid panic-attack in the middle of a date; awful experience; reinforcement of fear.
    A better action would have been to find a very casual way to associate with datable women — such as a common-interest group (hiking club, kayaking group, …)
    Example 2: I am afraid of heights, somewhat more than is necessary for my well-being. In boot camp, we were made to jump off the high-dive platform. I was scared to death! Nothing terrible happened. Result: I am still very afraid of heights! Just doing what you are afraid of does not guarantee losing the fear. Perhaps a structured approach would work in this instance too, although I’m not sure what, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. (My fear of heights is not making me miss out on something I crave to do.)

  • Greg November 6, 2016, 8:40 am

    Love this post – the whole concept is awesome. Conquering fear, which is so often completely irrational, is paramount to living your life to the fullest, and for happiness! Related to the subject matter of this blog, it’s really important BEFORE you have your ‘stache because it means fighting against so many of those fears that our culture sets deep inside us: fear of unknown problems, fear of not having enough, fear that without “stuff” you won’t be happy, fear that having “less” means you will be miserable, fear that you will fail if you step away from the herd path.

    I think the bike helmet debate is a bit of a distraction, however. The stats are highly contextual. For example, it doesn’t make sense to compare stats from NL (where the culture and infrastructure support large numbers of people riding bikes all the time) to cities in the US where there is absolutely zero accommodation for bike riders. Even my tiny little eastern Connecticut town (and the one next to it) of about 30,000 has no bike lanes, bike racks, no shoulder to the road, bad sidewalks, etc. But I still ride my bike all the time and am extra careful.

  • Andreas June 29, 2017, 3:02 am

    Nice post as usual.

    I am amazed how much this blog helps me change my life. Not all thanks to MMMs blog there are others aswell, but I must say this has the most influence on me. I remember and other post with the title something like “omg I am making more money since starting reading MMM”.

    Since I started my travel to FI I have so far:

    Bought a new bike and taking it to work, 4 days out of 5. Day 5 is shopping day and I do all the shopping at once, maximising the use of my car.

    Aware of what I buy and how much it costs, short and long term. Cutting my own “spending money” in half.

    Created documents for budget, goals, tracking expenses etc etc.

    Gotten rid of my cardebt.

    Monthly saving going from lets say 5% to almost 25% (goal is 50%)

    Increased mortage on our home

    Done a budget, and cutting things back every month that I do not need. I tried to do it at once but did not work for me. Easy does it, one step at a time (Kaizen thinking) and that really works.

    Doing things above that I found impossible just a few years back, makes me think about what will happen in the next five years.

    Got my spouse to actually save and invest instead of burning it all every month..

    Created 5 different accounts manly for index investing, but also trying other things out (like p2p loaning, accounts for only investmentcompanies etc).

    It is funny how €50 seemed to be so much money, and now investing €300 or even €1000 doesnt even make me flinch.

    All this above without lowering my standard or making me feel less fortunate, the opposite is actually happening.
    Also better at work and more positive than ever before.

    Is this your doing MMM?

    My way of saying thanks, this actually works. Will be back in 20years with an update, I should be FI by then.

    And with FEAR I think of two things, the awesome FPS game in slow motion, and Gary Buseys qoute:
    False Evidence Appearing Real. Gotta love that.


  • Johnny Money July 11, 2022, 2:50 pm

    Dear Mr. Stache,
    Loved the article. Great way of “nutshelling” the dream and dawn together. As a person who suffers from PTSD, I know exactly what you are talking about. I went to a party Sunday, 75th anniversary of my favorite dive bar, Don’s Mixed drinks in Denver, and my heart was just pounding, then I realized – those weren’t red laser dots from snipers everywhere, it was just a club light show! Phew! No need to run for cover!

    The fear dynamic you described resonated with me. My sister is a therapist and calls this “rumination”, a name which I had trouble with, but now I just add the word “dysfunctional” to my definition, which becomes “Dysfunctional rehashing of old events”. I like to reexamine old thoughts from time to time, but consider this constructive under the right circumstances. 1AM after a fear dream is clearly not constructive, esp given the contrast with the morning flip-flop. I feel this is a good distinction to make and assess when you do feel fear – is it real and worth attention, or as in your case, an endocrine hormone known to linger longer than needed in the body. I also agree that our culture has a million ways to try to establish this “Emotional, irrational, manipulable” state for their own purposes. So developing a PTSD and rumination sensor helps me avoid getting rolled by all the cons out there, trying to knock me off balance and close a quick sale during the confusion.

    And as a biker since age 18 with 35ish years of riding, have only destroyed ( yes, pulverized into chunks smaller than 3 inches) 2 bike helmets and a couple of dinged helmets from half falls. One was in Death valley on a fireroad descent at top speed, flipped, flying thru the air, and the second a low speed turn that failed on an icepatch. Brain is still functional, thank helmet! I ride without it too, and don’t feel fear, except above 30mph. Please keep these blog posts coming by keeping your head about you and off the asphalt. Studies show helmets prevent 4 out of 5 trips to the hospital stemming from bike crashes. Helmet safety meta-study https://www.bicycle-guider.com/cycling-advice/bicycle-helmet-law-stats/


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