Fear Based Living

April 05, 2007

Several times in recent weeks I have been struck by the thought that most people are approaching life from a fear-avoidance stance. Not that avoiding fear is a bad idea, but perhaps one can over anticipate and end up altering their life needlessly in the process.

For example, my current work situation provides me with an opportunity to travel to a different building for some meetings. Parking is usually accomplished along the street at a metered space. The neighborhood is mixed commercial and residential - not a bad part of town, but not suburbia either. When a co-worker discovered that I was parking along the street he immediately had to tell me about all the cars with broken windows he'd seen in the area. Obviously he thought that parking your car downtown was an invitation to being vandalized or robbed. Having had my apartment in suburbia robbed, and having had a motorcycle stolen and a car broken into in a well-lit apartment parking lot I know that crime happens where it happens, not just along some streets. I've got insurance so that I don't have to live in fear of where I park my car.

Another example. I've been approached about signing up for a pre-paid legal service. The list of services included is very nice, but my first thought upon hearing about this was that the service provider was cashing in on fear. I couldn't help but thinking about all the stolen children scares on the news magazine television shows. Most of these cases prove to be a contested child custody matter - a family member "takes" the children. The actual number of true stolen children is statistically insignificant. I'm not trying to diminish the utter horror of a stolen child, it does happen. However, completely turning ones life upside down and sideways to mitigate a faint possibility seems like the cure is worse than the disease.

When I was teaching self defense in the 1990s we talked about being "prepared not paranoid." Going too far with preparedness can be worse than not being prepared at all. Paying a month subscription against the random chance that you'll need legal representation at some future date feels, to me anyway, like borderline paranoia.

Perhaps I've got my head buried in the sand but I don't want to live in fear. I do believe in being prepared - I've got car insurance, health insurance, disability and life insurance, et cetera. Pre-paid legal just feels like one of those extended warranty deals at the electronics store. By buying that warranty you are gambling that your new toy will break. You are pre-paying for it to fall apart. If I pre-pay for legal services I think there is an aspect of self-fulfilling prophecy in play; next thing you know I'll be in small claims court needing legal services.

If buying extended warranties, not parking your car downtown, and having someone on legal retainer make you feel comfortable then I am glad for you and I think you should do those things. For me I'm content to be aware of the risks involved in life and in the choices I make. I am willing to accept some risk in order to live my life my way.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.