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Random thought

(also posted to alt.poly)

To what extent is having irrational fears a luxury?


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2002 06:25 pm (UTC)
If having irrational fears is a luxury, I've got a leg up on Bill Gates.
Oct. 23rd, 2002 09:27 pm (UTC)
"irrational fears" does not map to "luxury" in my world. I need more context to understand the question, I think.
Oct. 23rd, 2002 10:36 pm (UTC)
If the answer were a question, it might be like:
To what extent is one's behavior modified by the irrational fear? Is one allowed to explain away irrational behavior by pointing at the irrational fear?
To what extent does one get what one wants by citing the irrational fear even if that's not strictly the reason, or not the only reason?
Oct. 23rd, 2002 10:44 pm (UTC)
I don't know if having irrational fears is a luxury, but I have seen people tell themselves that their own irrational fears were a luxury. Mostly they seemed to be doing that as another way of beating themselves up. (You know, the "X is a luxury, I don't deserve any such thing, therefore if I have X I am evil, bad and wrong, and selfish besides! How can I be so greedy as to have an irrational fear when there are people with 'real' fears in the world?" and yada yada yada, ouch infinitum.)

If I see people telling someone else that their irrational fears are a luxury, I mostly just think the first person's a snot. And in need of a subscription to the Clue-of-the-Month Club.

(Ooh! I am so judgemental!)
Oct. 23rd, 2002 10:45 pm (UTC)
Or were you asking about behavior, rather than the fears themselves?
Oct. 24th, 2002 06:10 am (UTC)
Do you mean a luxury because you have room/time for them, you don't have so many rational fears crowding you? I think there's something there, but I'm not sure how much. It's not that you stop being scared of bridges because the troll is chasing you. But it *is* a case of priorities.

People can have irrational fears while they have rational ones. But only having irrational fears can be seen as a luxury in some contexts. It doesn't make them any better though. I can't say this without seeming to belittle irrational fears, which isn't what I mean at all.

It's sort of like when my son came home from school with headlice and we all got it, and it was icky and revolting and horrible and painful and really hard to get rid of and... the norm of human history. People would have had headlice and body lice and fleas, andf no showers and no modern treatments, and maybe they were also starving and in the middle of a war. It didn't make having headlice now any nicer, but in a way it did put it into perspective that I was lucky to be able to make a fuss about it, rather than take it for granted as part of the background noise.

I think irrational fears are that kind of luxury.

Papersky (bluejo@vif.com)
Oct. 24th, 2002 01:43 pm (UTC)
irrational fears
papersky!!! *bounce*.

yes, that's pretty much how i feel about irrational fears for myself, probably because i don't recall having any when my life was mostly about surviving day to day. my fears, then, were rational.

and i do mean to belittle irrational fears, again, for myself. i don't want to have any, and when i do, i work to get rid of them.
Oct. 24th, 2002 01:47 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
Belittling the fears would be a different thing from belittling yourself, yes?
Oct. 24th, 2002 04:44 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
I'm not pir_anha but I think belittling oneself is generally a pretty crappy and useless thing to do. On the other hand I do think that it's worthwhile to belittle some of the notions that show up in my mind, such as "I can't/don't deserve to have a nice life."
Oct. 24th, 2002 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
Oct. 26th, 2002 11:17 pm (UTC)
Ah, then I have misunderstood the question, because I was thinking you meant "irrational fears" as in phobias. I have a whole bunch of them :) Some of them are basic primeval responses (such as arachnophobia - I don't have that one, but it makes evolutionary sense to me - many spiders are poisonous to humans, therefore it is useful to the human species as a whole if we try to avoid spiders), some of them are Pavlovian learned responses (some of which I should try to get rid of, as a learned response to an ex's behaviour may not be appropriate for a current partner), and some of them are just interesting ways in which I'm fucked up, which therapy may or may not resolve :) But I've clearly misunderstood your question. So, could you give more context, please?
Oct. 27th, 2002 08:25 am (UTC)
More context is here.

I think of phobias as veryvery strong fears, which might or might not be irrational at their base (although their intensity is usually irrational, or else we wouldn't call 'em phobias).
Oct. 25th, 2002 04:51 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
oh, definitely. i try not to belittle myself in all seriousness, and if i do, i consider it a useless thing to do. i do it in fun, but i've got to be careful with that one, because true negativity can sneak in that way.

i really like putting stupid emotions in their place though. this is where the adherents of the "ëmotions are neither good nor bad, they just are" school always lose me. i've never yet gained anything just accepting stuff like "i am a worthless piece of protoplasm, my mother said so". i've fought it actively, and have gotten rid of a lot of that sort of thing, and i am a lot happier for it.
Oct. 27th, 2002 08:30 am (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
I consider "I am a worthless piece of protoplasm" to be a belief, not an emotion. I think it's certainly worth fighting stupid beliefs. (Heh. I know no one reading this has any idea!) Insofar as the belief gives rise to an emotion, I think fighting the emotion itself doesn't make sense.
Oct. 27th, 2002 01:05 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
that phrasing is a translation of what it feels like -- it's a dreadful feeling of worthlessness, not-belonging, and it's underneath where i'd call something a belief. it used to just well over me; sadness, dread, a shrinking of the self. yeah, i call that as much an emotion as love, it's similarly complex. and i had it before i understood the belief -- i understood "not worthy, not wanted here" before i could put words to it. my mother was an excellent teacher. *wry grin*.

and yes, i think fighting it made a lot of sense for me. that feeling was rational around my mother, but not rational around many people who came afterwards. and even if i intellectually told myself that it wasn't true, that just didn't do anything much for me -- i mean, i knew that from a certain age on, i understood the etiology of the damn problem. but i had to counter-act the emotion itself, actively, at the time that i felt it, before i made any inroads.

i do this a fair bit with emotions i consider to be not-good for me. especially with the depression; it would just be too damn easy to sink deeper and deeper into dark stuff. and intellectual attempts to manage it, while i'd love them to work better than "thinking happy thoughts" (which is badly simplified), just don't do the job alone.
Oct. 27th, 2002 04:28 pm (UTC)
Re: irrational fears
Emotions that stick around and drag you deeper are worth fighting if you can find a way to fight them that works for you. I think the folks who say "emotions just are" have the experience that most emotions go away within a reasonable period of time. I never had that experience until I went on meds.
Oct. 24th, 2002 08:38 am (UTC)

To me, "luxury" has implications of being something beyond basic survival needs, something adopted/acquired voluntarily, and something that can be given up (with varying amounts of effort). This may or may not map to anyone else's definition of the word. I'm not sure irrational fears really qualify.

As I was pondering this last night, thinking in terms of the whole Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs thang, it also struck me that being lower down in the hierarchy, i.e. not getting all of one's basic survival needs met, didn't seem to offer (IME) any guaranteed freedom from irrational fears. It seemed to me (and this may be fatigue poisons masquerading as Deep Insights) that "irrational fears" might be the shadow side of humans' need to create meaning.

Executive summary: No, I don't think so.
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