The Objects of Fear

I am not afraid of waking up to a stranger standing over my bed at night.

While working out, the TV had a closed caption news report on the concealed carry permits in Phoenix. They showed the training that people go through as well as several with permits as well as interviews with several of them. They spoke extensively about being ready for various circumstances, most of which I do not worry about on a day-to-day basis.

At one point, they flipped back a bed cover and showed a gun under someone’s pillow. The person said he didn’t want to wake up with a stranger standing over his bed and be unprepared. This struck me as a somewhat absurd fear. If someone wakes you up in night, you’re drowsy, is it more likely to be a person you know and love or a stranger? If it is a stranger and they are standing over your bed, perhaps they are even more prepared than you are?

Yet, if you started sleeping with a gun under your pillow, it seems far more likely that you would be afraid of that situation. Playing the scenario over and over in your head, making it more real each night before going to bed. It struck me as strange that the things we do to prepare ourselves for the “worst” instead of relieving our fear only amplify it. It’s like trying not to think of a white swan. The more you try to avoid it, the more you think about it.

More than that, I’ve found that the things we worry about are not the things that actually occur. The things we never saw coming are the things that strike us. How much more likely is a heart attack than being shot in your own bed?

Life is too short to live in fear or to go without a good nights sleep.






3 responses to “The Objects of Fear”

  1. Wizened Wizard Avatar
    Wizened Wizard

    Yup. Not an uncommon discovery. Mark Twain and Emerson are favorites. Noticed somebody had put together a collection.

    I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
    — Mark Twain

    Some of your hurts you have cured,
    And the sharpest you still have survived,
    But what torments of grief you endured
    From the evil which never arrived.
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.
    — Thomas Jefferson

    If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
    — Don Herold

    Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which will never happen.
    — James Russel Lowell

    People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross.
    — Unknown

    Some men storm imaginary Alps all their lives, and die in the foothills cursing difficulties which do not exist.
    — Edgar Watson Howe

    There are people who are always anticipating trouble, and in this way they manage to enjoy many sorrows that never really happen to them.
    — Josh Billings

    There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.
    — Seneca

    My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.
    — Michel de Montaigne

  2. Ben Avatar

    The practical merit of firearms aside, I’d suggest that fear is secondary to control as the emotional driver these cases. The perceived ability, realistic or not, to take control of an extremely unlikely violent threat still offers comfort when so many aspects of life like work, relationships, and health, can never be fully controlled.

    Extend this thought to the larger field of survivalist preparation, which offers endless opportunity for projecting oneself into an simplistic, scorched-earth future (in blog speak: TEOTWAWKI – the end of the world as we know it) where a few thousand dollars worth of food stores and ammunition equal control over one’s life, to a degree difficult to achieve in the much-more-likely future of uncertain employment, rising gasoline and grocery costs, corrupt government, and the thousand other daily insults and indignities.

    So the armed sleeper dreams comfortably, sure of a big payoff should the improbable attacker come.

    You might say sleeping with a gun is a “black swan” investment strategy!

    Back at ground level, the political hysteria pro and against guns, not to mention their psychological possibilities, make them one of those “no-no” conversation topics like politics, Jeffrey Dahmer, and software engineering. But once you get past that, they are simply tools, and even rarely used tools are sometimes good to have around.

    As a frequent hiker and camper in remote desert places, for example, I know that the possibility of rattlesnake bite is extremely small. In fact, it’s much smaller statistically than myself or a loved one being the target of a human attacker some day. Especially considering that rattlesnakes generally mind their own business and strike only in defense, unlike humans.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t carry a snake-bite kit.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and take care!

  3. Matthew Avatar

    Yes, I didn’t intend this to be anti-gun nor anti-preparation. I think there are very legitimate reasons to own a firearm, but think they also come with additional costs.

    Bruce Schneier, a security expert, explains that one should consider the vulnerabilities and what things could be done to solve them. For each solution, consider what new vulnerabilities you have now created.

    Vulnerability: Waking up with someone strange standing over your bed with intent to harm
    Possible Solution A: Sleep with a gun under your pillow
    Possible Solution B: Lock your front door
    New Vulnerability A: Shooting your child who just wants a glass of water
    New Vulnerability B: Possible difficulty escaping in a fire

    Or in your case:

    Vulnerability: Getting bit by snake
    Possible Solution A: Carry Snake Bite Kit
    Possible Solution B: Carry pistol to shoot snake
    New Vulnerability A: More stuff to carry around
    New Vulnerability B: Accidental discharge of firearm

    I’m certainly not against being prepared, but I find it fascinating to think about how our preparation affects our thoughts and emotions. I appreciate your larger description of those who choose to prepare for worst-case scenario eventualities because they can be known as opposed to the far more likely yet vague eventualities of everyday life.

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