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4. Fear of the Irrational

Updated: Jul 11

Ten years ago, I learned that having a fear of becoming suddenly blind, and particularly one morning when I wake up, is an irrational fear. I was in Scotland and my GP was very busy to answer my other inquiries, particularly considering real patients bleeding outside; so I reserved my questions to myself. He was still kind enough to indicate that it is a very small, actually extremely tiny (you can imagine the fingertips of the GP to show how tiny it is), probability that I suddenly become blind, without, of course, accidents or perhaps some early warnings that would tell me (like imaginary diagnostic monitors) that I was in the process of becoming blind. What was the probability – the question that I did not ask. Is it zero? But, nothing has zero probability from many points of view, particularly if you are a skeptical mathematician, philosopher, or both, while I was neither. Or, is it one out of billion? Then, there could be 6-7 people who had suddenly become blind; why should not I be the next (un)lucky person? In the same periods, quite coincidentally, I was obsessed with directly staring at the Sun (I was 30 years old – that needs to be clarified), without realizing that there were miraculously plenty of hours at that specific historical period of time to directly observe the Sun in Glasgow (if you are not familiar with the weather in Scotland, you may need a quick internet search to see my point of view). If you look into the core long enough, it becomes a red ball, then an orange one – no different than the fruit orange – until it becomes a perfectly round stone without any light you can even detect. I was not considering that it was this particular action that could actually make me blind, while I was simultaneously busy with my – so called irrational – fear that I may become blind (out of nothing) in the next morning, and so on. I did not of course bring this fantastic sun-observation activity to the attention of my GP, who would probably make a private call to my wife about my mental health. Anyway, after reading these, do not directly look into the Sun, as it will make you blind, at best, giving you a plenty of damage that you will deserve. And, you are supposed to have a fear of doing this action, since becoming blind is something you should be afraid of, as it is – in the simplest term – bad. Whatever the level of its badness, though, you are also not supposed to have a fear of becoming suddenly blind, until your imaginary health monitor says so, as its probability is significantly lower than becoming blind by looking into the Sun; and it is exactly this blurry probability that is expected to govern your actions, feelings, and emotions. As if you are a probability calculator.



After depression and anxiety, for which we find nothing to cure but loops to break, we will now perform a close examination of one of their intermediate sources, as well as their consequences via outer loops, namely, irrational fears. They support both anxiety and depression, yet any irrational fear involves its own infinite loop, which must be investigated and understood, particularly to see how we delicately design and construct it to make ourselves excessively suffer. Fears, in fact, are more observable than anxiety and depression, hence they attract others’ (say, experts’) attention much more than other emotional and psychological problems such that plenty of resources can be found in the literature to mitigate, eliminate, alleviate, etc., whatever to make them less interactive with the sufferers’ life. At this point, once again, I find myself obligated to claim that this is not a scientific essay written by some very expert of fears. It is indeed much stronger; written by a fear sufferer himself who looked for cures during years of suffering. Exactly the same as depression and anxiety, when I looked into it finally, I find nothing to cure. That was why I suffered.

At this point, to avoid making experts angrier, I will distinguish rational and irrational fears. The ambiguity in these types, as well as the difficulty in separating them, if possible, is based on the subjectivity of the emotion and the simultaneous objectivity of the fear source. Specifically, in an experienced fear, rational or irrational, a measurable and/or observable source, which can be universally perceived, leads to an emotional state in an ambiguous scale, unperceived externally but lived internally by the sufferer. The transfer of knowledge, such as the intensity of emotion and its content, to others, can be of behavioral characteristics, in a way that the fear naturally becomes behaviorists’ duty (or something that they successfully handle) to overcome or diminish. This practice is operational, however, specifically for rational fears, as the source can be solidified or deformed into a vivid target, whose subjective (still externally unobservable) response can be balanced back and forth via feedback mechanisms, like a scientific experiment. Subsequently, becoming blind is awful, having an accident to become blind is rational, having accident but not becoming blind is positive, and simultaneously having an associated fear (of having an accident to become blind) is logical. This rationality is so automatized and internalized that, one cannot ask what is exactly wrong with experiencing an accident, when constructing an argument on the fact that accident itself is actually a passive (emotionless) event from the perspective of becoming blind [This is best understood by asking yourself the following: what kind of accident that you imagined so far in this reading, when we are discussing becoming blind – so you constructed a meaningful context out of the word accident (abstract itself)]. So, the accident’s direct or indirect consequences are transferred onto itself, whose probability is evaluated to be high enough to rationalize the associated fear. But, this flow of logic creates the ambiguity when the source of the fear is blurred in meaning, even if it can still be put into a linguistic context, like "suddenly becoming blind". At the very end, we reach the conclusion that suddenly becoming blind with no reason, although more active (and well-defined) than having an accident from a conceptual point of view, is irrational, as the dice says so.


There can be a complete dull book on what is rational and irrational in the context of fear, but I will try to keep my focused view – the sufferer’s vantage point, to elaborate irrational fears, and in fact, to distinguish them from such rational ones, whose solutions can be found in more reachable resources. It is remarkable that irrational fears are those that actually create problems for the intelligent, immersing her/him into anxiety and depression. In short terms, to categorize, we should ask whether the fear is useful or not, practically, in a daily life. Irrational fears are those that do not have any function, rather creating a more difficult life without any particular reason, making the sufferer suffer and helping her/him easily reach anxiety and depression states within their own loops. Rational fears similarly and equally make life difficult and challenging; but, their functions are externally observable for behaviorists to track and solve the major issue (e.g., via exposure or other therapies) or to proceed deep enough to reveal the core reason of any particular fear. From this perspective, having a fear of a dog, for example, can be quite a rational one, as a dog can damage one’s body (function of fear). This fear must be "cured" if needed [need is used carelessly here], e.g., if the person cannot go outside due to fear of dogs, while this does not make the fear irrational as the source of the fear is externally identifiable and subjectively functional. On the other side, fearing a scene that a kind of dog can come into one’s bedroom while sleeping in the 8th floor of an apartment, while not owning any dog (needless to say), may be an irrational fear. This is not due to much lower (still nonzero) probability of this event; in any case, a low probability will never soothe the sufferer and will not be useful at all from the perspective of the fearer, as well as to understand the process of fear. It is the non-functionality of the fear, and simultaneously deformed source (the entire event – not the dog) of the fear to identify the issue.


At this stage, I find illustrative to list some irrational fears, some of which were owned by myself at some points in my life, some of which still I have, and some of which are or were owned by others who opened their – so called – dark sides to me, as well as those with owners recognized by me. I will, of course, will not personalize any of them, as they are independent emotions, i.e., they conceptually exist in time and space, whether there is any owner of them or not. Some irrational fears listed here may be considered rational, depending on the existence or nonexistence of their functions – the point that I tried to clarify (but difficult to crystalize) above.


Bodily fears (e.g., fears of having heart attack, fainting, becoming blind, choking, being decapitated due to an accident, illness), social fears (e.g., agoraphobia, fears of failure, being ridiculed, being touched, touching, speaking in public, being stared at, strangers), interactive fears (e.g., fears of needles, stairs, mirrors, clocks, clowns, dentists and doctors, blood), fears regarding loved ones (e.g., fears that they may have an accident, be harmed, be killed), fears concerning other people (fear of harming close ones or random persons), philosophical fears (e.g., fears of solipsism, numbers, infinity, disorder, imperfection, gravity, time, technology, large/small things), fears related to perception and senses (e.g., fears of darkness, heights, flying, being alone, confined spaces, dirt and germs), fears of animals (e.g., fears of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals), fears of natural events (e.g., fears of thunders, night, fire, open water), and finally, the ultimate fear: the fear of death. Categorization given here is in relaxed form, in a weak sense, and boundary-free. Some of these potentially irrational fears are more common and literally embraced worldwide, like some desirable parts of a unique personality, characteristics, and even disability that may elevate the owner to a higher status (as if this is a good way of uniqueness) or make her/him privileged for positive discrimination, while others are so rare that they are often described simply bizarre and funny characteristics (e.g., fear of flowers) of the sufferer (even by the sufferer in social environments, as a kind of defense mechanism).

Obviously, if one opens a book of phobia, one can find a plenty of (possibly more authentic) fears that are not listed above; but, the list includes some that can potentially be irrational (nonfunctional) and have potentials to be persistently unsolved issues underlying anxiety and depression – so they are topics of this writing. As I did previously, I will show that they are merely based on an infinite loop that the intelligent constructs, so that they are very solvable by breaking a (the weak) link in this loop: a cure that requires a simultaneously simple and deep understanding, and letting the time do the job, as there is actually nothing to cure in an active or proactive manner.

As fear is a kind of popular topic, its popular explanations often go beyond now-and-here or here-and-now. In psychology, everybody suddenly becomes Jung, and archetypes turn into excellent items to put further mystery on the top of already non-grasped aspects of emotions. Accordingly, fear should be something we gain by evolution; our so complicated and equally marvelous brains (of humanity) somehow learned these behavioral reactions to survive. Why not to be afraid of snakes, if they are venomous? Heights, isolation, thunders, darkness, … Are not they all dangerous for this little human, hiding on the top of the tree, in a womb-like cave, or behind a bush to avoid such wilderness. So, it is then this so-called fight-or-flight response that what the fear should be; you perhaps prepare your mind and body to unprecedented dangers, sudden attacks, and unforeseen circumstances. And, you are unfortunately at a very unlucky period of the history of human evolution, where such wild components have mainly been diminished but your brain is still not upgraded. As a former great sufferer of panic attacks and life-time admirer of these phenomena, I would like to ask to the intelligent, who suffered or now being suffering such attacks or similar intense fears (and ask her/him to ask himself/herself): When the attack or that intense fear, which you successfully personalized and customized, hits in the most powerful form, do you really feel prepared for fighting or flighting? If the evolutionary view is correct, which I am not entitled to question but feeling free to criticize, the evolution must have gone in a so wrong direction that, what I felt was neither a sense of fight (whatever comes) or power to flight (where my heart goes). In fact, once at the middle of a panic attack, I was able to question what kind of evolution has made me so weak that I was literally paralyzed, even being unable to function in any healthy way. Exactly like certain types of goats that actually have biological abilities to be paralyzed under intense fears to sacrifice themselves and let the rest of the horde fled from attacks. I could accept this; but, I do not think I had any urge to sacrifice myself.


Needless to say, as the interpretation differs, methods developed by non-sufferers may develop further complications and make irrational fears even more irrational by abstracting them. Breathing exercises are such innocent attempts to relax people with panic attacks, as the sufferers are observed to hold their breaths during such attacks, making them physiologically worse. It is, then, ironic and paradoxical for the intelligent when the same experts claim correctly that panic attacks do not have any physiological harm at all. Then, why they teach techniques? To alleviate suffering? To make suffering shorter? To help the sufferer to avoid public embarrassment? In fact, breathing exercises provide short-term benefits and long-term harms to the intelligent, as long as these attacks themselves are not solved, as they give the sufferer another item (specifically duty of breathing) to monitor consciously or register unconsciously, in the middle of a crisis of ultimate awareness.


To clarify, from the lowest actions to the highest concepts, breathing exercises, meditations, and mindfulness are extremely useful tools to flourish and increase the quality of life; but, they are, once the practitioner is already free of intense anxiety issues, like panic attacks (see the pyramid and levels of anxiety in the previous reading). From a point of view, holding breath, if the mind wishes to do whatever fearful it is, is more instructive than learning diaphragm-moving breathing to parry incoming attacks, if the sufferer needs to know what the experts (correctly) claim (that there is no physiological harm). Unfortunately, the short-term relaxation with a substitutional property will make panics natural habits of life, where breathing exercises become addictive injections that must be kept nearby (always in the pocket) in case something bad happens. This is also how they become strict reminders for the sufferer, in case s/he forgets that s/he suffers from panics. For the intelligent with ultimate awareness, when s/he is at the top of the anxiety, such exercises and pocket-book techniques cause dissonances between the consciousness (e.g., desperately trying to regulate breathing) and unconsciousness (e.g., supposed to make regulations without monitoring). Then, what they call mindfulness becomes mindedness and over-mindedness for the sufferer – a state where the intelligent tries to overcontrol bodily functions, while they were supposed to passively observe them when mediating. To repeat, breathing exercises, meditations, and mindfulness are, in general, excellent experiences to be integrated in one’s life, while their introduction by the experts to a person for the first time usually happens at the worst possible time, when s/he is at the climax of suffering.


Before introducing the infinite loop and the link to be broken associated with irrational fears, I must indicate that panic attacks – the peak of anxiety with fullness of (bodily) fears – are main topics of the next essay. So, while the following loop is still applicable to them, panic attacks contain another inner (and stronger) loop to simultaneously tackle with. I know the intelligent who suffers from panic attacks is impatiently waiting me to write for them; but, it has been extremely necessary to understand loops associated with depression and anxiety, as well as the one for irrational fears to be introduced now. First, remember the problematic issues regarding depression and anxiety. In depression, we have (or had) a deformed view of the external world (non-depressive world), internalized problematically to construct and maintain the loop. In anxiety, we have (or had) a deformed view of the self (the poor anxious), sustained internally to construct and maintain the loop. Now, in an irrational fear, we deform the fear itself such that our attempts to mitigate fear are actually not dealing with the once-feared object. It is like jousting, while your opponent is sitting on a bench in the tribune, enjoying her/his drink.


Here is the paradox: You have an irrational fear of an object, since you think that the object is the cause of your fear.


And, the infinite loop:


1. You suffer from an irrational fear of an object.

2. You prepare yourself to fight with the fear of the object, via imagination.

3. You imagine your unbearably fearful status when you face the object, even when there is a little chance that you will face the object. (The only exception with polar characteristics is the irrational fear of death, as there is a hundred percent chance that you will face it).

4. You replace your fear of object with the fear of act of fearing, without realizing the reflection.

5. You are afraid of “fearing of the object” rather than being afraid of the object, but do not acknowledge the transformation.

6. You think that you have a fear of the object although you do not (it has been deformed).

7. So, you (think that you) suffer from an irrational fear of an object.


At the bottom line, in any irrational fear, you actually have a fear of fear, rather than the original fear of the object. This is exactly the reason why your attempts to eliminate your irrational fear have failed; you do not actually possess the original (and ridiculously dull) fear; it is actively being replaced with the brighter (self-sustainable) fear of fear. So, the battle you have been taking was empty – in the most appropriate way to say. In fact, your brain was simply unable to maintain something irrational, while knowing that it was irrational. If it could, the action would paradoxically be rationalized (subjectively), while the object remained in its irrationalized form (objectively), eliminating the fear in seconds due to the lack of functionality (emptiness).

In previous cases, i.e., in depression and anxiety, the weak links were perhaps more obvious. In this case, I will directly forward the intelligent to item four, as “realization” is an active and manual process that can be controlled by the mind. Specifically, we should deal with the process of “replacing fear of object with the fear of act of fearing”. Yes; this corresponds to doing nothing, especially in comparison to behavioral approaches applying exposures or cognitive approaches transforming our ways of thinking. Note that, in both cases, the main target remains as the original object, which I already consider (the object) ineffective and nonfunctional for an irrational fear.

When the fear comes, realize what you are actually afraid of, and see how the object is already out of your view. You will find nothing but you literally have a fear of fear, since you think that you will not be able to cope with the fear, which is ironically generated by yourself. Give yourself a freedom, allow yourself to fear as much as you can.


And, let the time do its job as the fear is gone and the object leaves the tribune, as there remains nothing to watch.


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