What Do You Fear?
Everyone struggles with some fears.
I fear loneliness and rejection, stemming from my childhood experiences. Consequently as an adult I seek out deep friendships, human connection, camaraderie. I yearn for acceptance and feeling of belonging to counter my anxieties, to feel safe and comfortable.
Others, for example, feel powerless. They fear being powerless because someone, somehow made them feel that way throughout their childhood. As adults they counter that feeling by seeking control and power over others, to feel safe and comfortable.
In some sense it is harder for those people (versus me who is struggling with loneliness) because at least I am open to feedback, open to learning about myself. It is not so for power hungry dictators who generally won’t accept outside input. Accepting help makes them feel weak and powerless so they naturally refute it. They will reject critical feedback. They have to come to it on their own, learn on their own (and sometimes they never do, such a shame). In the end we might all share the same fears, but on a spectrum. Some of us skew towards certain fears quite a lot more than the others.
Our fears and resulting modes of behavior (character) are wired into us on a subconscious level throughout childhood. As adults we don’t consciously realize when these patterns of thoughts trigger and occur in our minds. Like an auto executing program that’s been embedded deep in our psyche. It’s as if we are living on an autopilot, being a zombie.
Our brains evolved to do this over millions of years as a survival tactic, so that in adult life we could maximize energy efficiency of our brains, and optimize for speed of reaction. We execute precompiled software (traits of our character) automatically rather than having to spend the extra energy and time to come up with a new program for the given situation. It’s a survival tactic stemming from living among predators as recently as 5000 years go. Think quickly on your feet, or die.
Objectively speaking the world around us continuously improves. Technology increases the quality of our lives. Today we live beautiful lives, most of us at least, in developed countries. We have every imaginable body comfort at our disposal, access to nature, good food delivered in 10 minutes (healthy food if we choose so), clean, comfortable bed, protection from the elements, rain, cold, heat, various entertainment, yet we struggle mentally. Rate of pharmacologically medicated adults (and children) being treated for their various mental ailments is steadily growing in the U.S.
Our minds are overburden by fears and anxieties. We struggle to stay productive, we avoid living in the present moment and choose to continuously relive past memories or rehash future plans, which in turn brings us a great deal of anxiety. We are losing the ability to live in the now. As technological progress continues and our lives get more physically comfortable our minds get less comfortable. 20th century writer Isaac Asimov is quoted: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” Wisdom comes from understanding ourselves.
We need to understand why we act the way we do. A good starting point is to realize that other humans are mirrors to our minds. We need to learn how to observe those reflections and act on them to improve ourselves.
For example, when someone makes me feel lonely, it’s an opportunity, opportunity not to blame that person for making me feel lonely, but opportunity to realize that I have a wound in me, that my mind is making me feel lonely, that I am making MYSELF feel lonely, not the other person. It’s a blessing in disguise! It’s a gift. It’s counter intuitive but it’s a gift to learn from and better myself by conducting self-analysis and thus becoming more self aware. So many of us need to realize this. Our school system severely lacks in this department. We are being taught rote, uninspiring material, memorizing random facts to pass tests. We need more education in the self analysis and self improvement realm.
Technology is solving many problems today, for example making industrial processes more efficient. Someday soon most of us might not have to work, at least in the physical realm, I mean hard physical labor, performing menial tasks, etc. But as a result we will need to shift our attention to finding ways of occupying our minds productively in other ways. If we don’t do that our idle minds will drive us to latch onto our fears even more.
Now consider how much energy and potential we’ve spent on dealing with our unfounded fears, overtaken by our anxieties. Many members of our society struggle every day to just get by, with their minds stuck in overdrive. Employing all kinds of drugs, prescriptions or alcohol to subdue their fears, numb their feelings so they can face another day. Think of all that wasted brain potential that could instead have been used productively to better our world. We could easily have been a multi-planetary species by now. There is no reason or physical law that states we couldn’t have achieved it by now. We landed on the moon more than 60 years ago, but since then there’s been no progress… or almost 0 progress in that realm (thank you SpaceX at al for pushing us forward nonetheless). Instead we fought a few more wars, fought over land when there is so much of it out there on other planets. We got bogged down by our limited thinking, tied up by our fears.
Our caveman-like fears push us to think that we live in a zero sum game: in order for me to win someone else has to lose, but that is not true, simply not true. We have unlimited potential, unlimited resources. It’s just a matter of using those resources more effectively with the help of advancing technology but most… importantly reframing how we deal with and improve our mental state. It's a struggle and only becoming a bigger issue as our lives become physically easier. Today we have 8 billion people living on planet Earth. We could easily 10x that number with the right technology while at the same time maintaining a symbiosis with nature. We can sustain 80 billion people or more, while setting up more national parks than today, laying down foundations for a robust ecosystem. It’s all a matter of how we structure our societies, remodel our ways of thinking.
There’s enough land to support both more people and more biodiversity on planet Earth. It sounds like a strange idea but one comes to that realization when looking at historical data. CO2 emissions in the U.S. have been steadily going down since the 70s (today they are almost half of what they were in 1970) while GDP has grown immensely. We have an increasing population of Black bears in California. In the last 25 years it went from 30000 to 40000 Black bears due to more efficient farming and better forest preservation. This happened while the human population nearly doubled in CA in the last 25 years! In other states Black bear populations and other wildlife are increasing as well. Quoting 2010 U.S. Forest Service wildlife report on US game: “A general pattern of increasing population and harvest trends was observed among big game and waterfowl species.” The narrative in mass media would have you believe otherwise. Nature is claiming back what we humans free up as we move into cities because… Technology makes it all possible, makes our resource usage more efficient. Today we have cities with 40 million inhabitants, why can’t we have 100 million or even one billion inhabitants living in a mega city (that’s interlaced with mega parks all throughout)? 1 billion inhabitants living in a future megalopolis.
Think of all the unborn humans that could have been born if we constructed healthier societies. Think of all the lives never lived… the average Joes but also the exceptional thinkers that never got to be born! The lives that were never lived.
As the World around us gets more comfortable we increasingly face internal mental struggles because we simply can. In the early 1900s, only a short hundred years ago, we did not have the luxury to spend the time idling our minds. Back then, for most, physical labor occupied us until death at around 40 years of age. Today we face mental struggles because we simply have the time to do so. Our minds have not yet evolved to live in such a state.
Please, let’s figure out how to understand ourselves better, build better tools for self-awareness; lessen the burden of fears and anxieties that drain our creativity and productivity. Let’s unlock our potential, create amazing products, achieve unfathomable results, venture out into the solar system and beyond, because why not???
Fun fact: “According to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzkD5SeuwzM 60k stars become forever unreachable to humanity every second i.e. unimaginable amount of future well-being becomes forever inaccessible to us for every second that we are not rushing to develop space travel ASAP.” -Alexey Guzey