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Pere Renom

“We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision […] We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer.”
Oration on the Dignity of Man – Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

The wrong fear

published on 4.06.2020

Fear is an emotion produced as a reaction to a real or imaginary danger that prepares the body for escape, or for confrontation (fight or flight).
When we are afraid, a series of immediate physiological changes take place in our body: it increases the heart rate, blood pressure, cellular metabolism, blood glucose, adrenaline and brain activity, as well as blood clotting. Blood flows to the large muscles (especially the lower extremities, in preparation for flight). The eyes are rounded to improve vision, and the pupils are dilated to facilitate the admission of light.
This series of changes are coordinated, how could it be otherwise, from the brain. The brain is an organ of about 1,350 cm3 and can be divided between the brain, cerebellum, and medulla oblongata. If we look inside we see that the outermost part is the neocortex, related to the most rational capacities, while in the innermost part we find the paleocortex, the most primitive brain. The reptilian brain, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Fear occurs basically in these most primitive areas, therefore, its genesis is automatic and irrational. If we need a quick response, we cannot depend on rationality. This adaptation has allowed us and many other species to survive, but it also has drawbacks, since fear is not always the result of a real danger, it can also be a result of an imaginary danger.
A good way to control the wrong irrational fear is to use a genuinely rational tool such as statistics. And to understand it, we can help ourselves with a casino roulette. Roulette is a game of chance and receives this name from the French “roulette”, which means “small wheel”. It contains 36 number plus zero. The sum of the first 36 numbers is 666, considered a magic number. Half of the numbers are black and the other half are red. If we bet on black or red we have a 48.6% probability of winning (it is not 50% because there is also zero). If we bet on the odd or even number we also have 48.6% of winning. But if we bet on a single number, the full one, we have 1/37 chances of winning, that is, 2.7%. Very often we are afraid of dying from causes with probabilities much lower than the full roulette, such as a plane crash (1/7,178), lightning (1/134,906), a shark attack (1/264 million) [according to National Safety Council, of the USA], or the coronavirus (1/1,572) [according to the Spanish Ministry of Health].
Therefore, even if it costs, the best remedy to redirect irrational fear is to stop considering the particular cases, and look at the set of cases, that is, the statistics. The bigger the numbers, the less they are wrong.

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