Beating Fear with Math (pt 1)

Something is about to happen. I feel afraid of what might happen. My fear narrows my attention to ONLY a tiny subset of all outcomes – only those I can live with – maybe only one. My fear has decreased the odds of an acceptable outcome and increased the odds of an unacceptable outcome. Why? Is my fear that powerful that it can change outcomes? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a simple bit of sets math.

Mathematics of Fear

Before something happens, all that can possibly happen make up the “all-outcomes” set. Once something happens, all possible happenings collapse into one happening – the “selection” set of happenings. Within all outcomes is THE outcome – that is, the selection set is part of the all-outcomes set. Once I select something, the section set becomes the all-outcomes set. Once something happens, it is all that could happen.

Think of it like the lottery in which only one series of numbers will result in a cash payout to ONE lucky winner. At the start of the lottery game all tickets have equal odds of winning – the winning ticket is in the all-outcomes set. The winning ticket is also in the selection set – the set of tickets that makes up those that will get selected as the winner.

The instant the winning ticket is announced, the all-outcomes set collapses into the selection set and millions of “unlucky losers” realize they didn’t win the big prize while one lucky winner realizes a fortune.

Winners and Losers

In a lottery, the odds hugely favor losing. That’s because of the outcome-narrowing effect imposed on the all-outcomes set by a small selection set. The smaller the selection set, the greater the prize for winning – at incredible odds – and the greater the motivation to play regardless of the odds. The larger the selection set, the greater the odds of winning – though a smaller prize – and less motivation to play. Like the difference between playing the lottery and investing in a savings bond.

A few years ago, a group of people figured out a way to “game the system.” They bought ALL but a tiny fraction of the tickets in a State lottery. They realized a significant return on their investment when one of those tickets won the jackpot. They shared the pot with all investors in the scheme. They’d flipped the odds into their favor by grossly expanding the selection set to nearly the size of the all-outcomes set. They’d turned a gamble into an investment in which many people realized a smaller win while fewer people realized a smaller loss.

How might I apply this concept to beating my fears? That’s the subject of our next article.

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Who’s Reading My Story?

Endless Attention

Within my bubble, my attention is held tightly to what validates my personal identity, my precious premise – my truth. My attention gives value to my story, which is based on my premise. That premise is – I must succeed by EARNING wholeness through righteous endeavor. I must HAVE something to DO something to BE something.

I fight for and defend anything that validates the usefulness of my cause in gaining wholeness. The cause inspires me to write on the pages of my memory the nobleness, the purity of purpose, and the rightness of reason of that cause. No story of heroism can surpass the glorious adulation one feels in pursuit of the greatest cause of all – the quest for wholeness. I use this sales pitch to convince myself to keep going.

Because I’ve bought my sales pitch, my choice-supportive bias kicks in to justify my purchase. My confirmation bias confirms and supports my justification.

Whatever threatens and/or validates my sacred cause gets the full attention of my biases. I’m now becoming aware of the demand for constant alertness and defense my story places on my attention and awareness. I’ve developed such strong patterns of judging, analyzing, and proving the rightness of my premise, that I don’t have a life for anything else.

The author has become the story.

Sometimes, when I’m able to sneak in a controversial thought like, “I wonder if I’m right about this!” I feel there might just be another way to see my questionable premise.

Questioning My Premise

I fear, and so defend against, learning I’m wrong. This fear binds me to my belief in unwholeness. Thus, I feel I must forever pursue my premise.

The book is not the story nor its author. The book can only be a book, the story can only be a story, while the author IS all of these and more. I’m not only the bubble I perceive I’m in. I am not only the limitation I perceive controls my experience. As the author of my story, I am all of these and more.

I’m Also The One Reading My Story!

I’ve enjoyed reading many books including those written by J.R.R. Tolkien. I wished I had had him here with me to answer my endless questions that left me wondering what he meant and imagining what I thought he imagined.

Though I can’t ask Tolkien, I can question the author of my story. Funny how seldom I look to the author of my story when I have a question about it. Questioning my questionable premises has lead me to investigate beyond my basal premise.

Who Is Beyond?

Beyond the bubble of limited awareness, my intention is to fully account for my authorship. From this perspective I understand and appreciate all my experiences based on a new premise – I AM whole already. I AM therefore I DO and therefore I HAVE.

This way of thinking opened up my limited awareness bubble and invited my authorship to write my story in a new way.

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Awareness of the Wholeness Prize

I’ve been living in a bubble of awareness. In that bubble, I create a story based on perceptions and judgements. As the author, I expect the characters to struggle, suffer, learn, grow, and interact as the story progresses towards its completion. A hero’s journey, a tale based on the premise: The hero must succeed – EARNING wholeness through righteous endeavor.

Even though the hero starts out on their quest with limited resources and understanding, they triumph in the end. My story is much the same, I imagine myself starting out from a state of need, dependence, and limitation, that I defined as unwholeness. Since then, I’ve worked hard, as I imagine a hero would, to achieve the well-earned prize of wholeness at the end of life.

Heroes share some fundamental aspects of my story – fighting for a righteous cause, justifying actions, seeking peace through use of necessary defense, resolving conflict at any cost, including loss of self, and dodging an enemy’s offenses. The hero must do whatever it takes to achieve the goal.

Why would I do this to myself?

Because I’m unwhole! That premise (I’m unwhole and must earn wholeness) sets the theme of my story. Throughout my life, I’ve become entranced with how other people’s stories – especially those I’ve looked up to – validate my premise.

In my story, I’ve written a lot about why I couldn’t fulfill my righteous cause, why I felt powerless at times, and why hopelessness kept me from marching onward to my goal. Feeling unable to fight non-stop for what’s right, I may have lost sight of the reward – maybe even losing the reward itself. As a result, I might feel like a failure.

The story I apply to my life is the record of who I perceive I am on my way to being who I want to be. My work towards perfection never ends and why should it? My story is based on laws, which validate my premise, which validate laws! Circular!

What’s the payoff for investing so much attention into proving my premise? Isn’t earning one’s way a good thing? After all, a life has to have an acceptable purpose, some justifiable (right) reason for being.

Thus my story!

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Questioning the Wholeness Prize

Imagine you’re in a limited awareness bubble participating in a win-or-lose game based on simple thinking errors. You may assume that you are unwhole, a premise based on satisfying perceived needs by cooperating with an external reality. When you take in and let go of what is needful to satisfy your requirements in the bubble you then may feel like a winner. You may also assume wholeness is the ultimate game prize.

That assumption is an artifact of life perceived within the bubble of limited awareness – a conclusion based on questionable premises and false equations. From that perspective, even “reasonable” equations result in unreasonable yet apparently logical conclusions – that appear as my life story.

From a perspective beyond bubble awareness, wholeness takes on an entirely different understanding. To get to that understanding, let’s start with an investigation of our premise that wholeness can and must be won or earned.

How Do I Support Questionable Premises?

Questionable premises are those that invite inquiry and scrutiny – question-able. Let’s look at the structure of some questionable premises and how they create false equations in the thinking process:

  • Premise: I must be right to be whole
    • False equations:
      • Anything less than right = wrong = unwhole
      • Success = right = whole = life
      • Wrong = failure = death
  • Premise: I can earn/achieve wholeness
    • False equations:
      • Success = achievement of wholeness
      • Sufficient education = success
      • Sufficient rightness = success
  • Premise: Wholeness is a prize
    • False equations:
      • Anything less than wholeness = failure = loss/lose
      • I am less than whole = I am a failure = I am a loser
      • Given enough time, energy, work, meditation, etc. => I WILL become whole (a future that never arrives)

Within my bubble awareness, I create a body-mind competition developed around relationships. When I  fashion an internal sense of self that compares my truths to the misunderstandings of others – who, in turn, compare my understanding to their completely unreasonable standards based on their questionable premises.

Example of how my false equations support my questionable premises:

“Because I haven’t yet become whole, I must be unwhole.”
“I am unwhole, so I must be a loser.”
“Because I need to win to live, I must not lose.”
“Because winning equates to wholeness, I must achieve wholeness.”
Therefore:
“Wholeness is the ultimate prize that I must win, yet, can’t win.”

Some reasoning errors that sustain my false or questionable premises:

  • Logic levels errors (also known as the non-sequitur fallacy) – This refers to logic leaps between BEING, DOING, and HAVING. Logic level leaps take the cause-effect form: if one logic level, then another logic level. For example: IF I DO something good then I AM good, I AM what I DO.
    Example: “Because I can’t stop smoking, I must be weak-willed.”
    Just because you can’t DO something, it does not follow that you ARE unwhole.
  • Cherry picking – “A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest.”
    Example: “The boss shot down my idea at the meeting today. I’m such a loser!”
    Never mind the times when your boss accepted your ideas.
  • Circular reasoning – in which the conclusion supports the premises which supports the conclusion.
    Example: “I’m a loser because I know what a winner looks like and that’s not how I look.”
    Note how I’m the authority that proves the authority.

The key to resolving questionable premises is to question them with intent to receive answers and to understand. An unquestioned premise will most likely remain intact and active as it is. Sometimes simply questioning a premise will resolve it – resulting in a new and possibly more useful state of mind.

How to Question a Premise

Get into a meditative, relaxed state. With an intent to understand, let go of your need for understanding and how answers to these questions must appear to you. Once the body is completely comfortable and relaxed, it’s in a baseline condition. Any sensation that pops up can be considered an “answer” to the question. With this awareness, ask, listen to the body, and acknowledge responses from Self.

Elicit the Premise:

  1. Who: (premise)
    • do I believe I am that needs to manifest in this way?
    • do I think I am that needs to feel this way?
      • ex: “I’m a failure!” “I’m unworthy.” “I’m unwhole.” “I’m angry!”
    • else sees me in this way?
  2. Why: (defense)
    • do I need to think, feel, and behave in this way?
    • must I express myself this way?
    • do I care what others think, feel, and express about me?
  3. How: (expression)
    • do I express that belief?
    • does this behavior affect this experience?
    • do others see me?
    • do I want others to see me?
  4. What: (judgement)
    • do I believe about me in this situation?
    • am I trying to express?
    • am I seeking from my expression?
    • do I need from others?
    • does my expression tell others about me?

Question the Premise:

  1. What must I assume in order for me to judge myself and others as I have? (Questioning the judgment of my premise)
  2. How would my life appear without that assumption? (Questioning the expression of my premise)
  3. Why do I assume this? Why do I need to feel this way? (Questioning my defense of my premise)
  4. Who would I be without this premise? (Questioning the validity of my premise)

Again – LISTEN with openness. Pay attention to your body – which may “speak” your answers to you in the language of sensation and movement. You might notice a sensation or movement and note its intensity:

  • What sensation do I feel? (hot, cold, tense, itchy, etc.)
  • Where do I feel it? (as precise as you can without pointing or touching it – just describe it in you mind)
  • How intensely do I feel it? (maybe on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being completely unbearable)

Note: sensations are not questions – they are responses/answers to questions. Resist the temptation to ask a sensation for its meaning. In this case, meaning is another mind game that can result in circular reasoning – “I feel tight in the jaw because I’m angry, which makes my jaw tight…”. Just “listen” and “acknowledge” – maybe express gratitude – then accept the information.

At some point, such questioning may result in an AHA moment that leads to a Third Degree of Illumination choice.

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Attention and the Wholeness Prize

Attention is the notice I give to someone or something that sets them apart for preferential consideration. In bubble awareness, I attend to what I’m most interested in, which is attaining wholeness. The attention I give to that quest requires intention, the power of will that drives me towards that goal of wholeness, which is to be right.

My intentions require judgements to polarize my perspective of reality. I judge everything and everyone, including self, based on my survival. In the bubble, my survival depends on the attention I give to the support and defense of my intention to be right.

I use judgements to divide and separate my experiences into two main categories – good and bad. Good means surviving well in my rightness, while bad means to survive poorly and/or die being wrong. My survival requires a paradoxical approach – I attend to what I want and what I don’t want – focusing on what I want and don’t have.

Because I believe myself unwhole, I must forever seek wholeness. In a world of competition, wholeness is a prize that must be earned. To win the prize, I must be worthy of it. My attention to and defense of my judgement of what is worthy of wholeness is my payment to that end. When I feel I am whole, I will feel I have earned it. Trouble is, because I’m forever seeking wholeness, I’ll never realize wholeness.

Based on this premise of a less-than-whole self who can compete and win the ultimate prize, no intention to achieve, or strategy to win, or attention to worthiness will ever result in wholeness. Why? Because I was never unwhole to begin with. There was no prize to win because I already AM whole as I AM.

What Is My Thinking Process?

Every premise drives an intention that drives a strategy to achieve the intention. It all goes back to who I perceive I am – the central premise. That perceived identity is the foundational premise underlying the story generated by the strategy, which defends the identity – the central premise.

First and foremost, I seek to prove the central premise – that I’m right! To that end, I:

  • give value and worth to my premise
  • set an intention to prove the premise
  • create a strategy that does that
  • favor attention to what proves me right
  • defend what proves my premise right
  • defend against threats to that premise
  • perceive all evidence to favor the premise

Did you notice that in the list above there isn’t a single question? That’s because the game of winning isn’t about doubt. It’s about certitude – proving rightness.

In the next article, let’s investigate what we might think instead.

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