Don’t Be Scared

Is it better to be fearful or fearless?

I listened to a podcast this week (On the top of fear), which highlighted a woman that was physically incapable of experiencing it.
She “suffered” from something called Urbach-Wiethe disease, which causes calcium to cover one’s amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing fear.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans developed fear to help us recognize danger and avoid it. But, because we live in an increasingly safe world, we don’t really need fear as much as we tend to experience it. Being fearless 500 years ago would have surely gotten you killed, but today, a fearless woman like the one profiled in the podcast can live a fairly normal life. Even the dicey moments she’s found herself in — an abusive marriage, being robbed a couple of times — are not considered traumatic to her. As the host mused in the show’s conclusion:

If you have no fear, more terrible things will happen to you, but you don't personally experience them as terrible. If you have a lot of fear, fewer bad things are likely to happen, but it's very probable that your life is more painful to you. So, is it better to be fearful or fearless?

I thought about that a lot this week, as the U.S. elections took place and the news was rife with drama, uncertainty and wild what-ifs. The resulting fear from such speculation has triggered merchants to board up their businesses and friends to leave cities in anticipation of violent civil unrest. At the time of writing, no such danger has materialized. Maybe it will still come? I don’t know. I’m trying not to worry about it.