We only fear pain, not “bad” outcomes

1) We can’t fear unwanted outcomes, we can only fear pain. Fear is an evolutionary capacity that helps us to stay safe. Fear is meant to help us survive. Fear gets activated whenever we consciously or unconsciously perceive there to be a possibility of physical danger. However, as you may have noticed, we also experience fear when there seems to be no real possibility of physical danger. This is because our body responds to the threat of emotional pain as if it is physically dangerous. We can experience the same intensity of fear when we approach a romantic interest or speak in front of the class as we would if we saw someone approaching us with a knife. I won’t go into explaining why this happens (that would take too long), but it is really important to notice that this is self-evident in your own life. 

You may believe that you are afraid of getting a low score on your exam, but you are really afraid of the pain you expect to feel (in the short-term or long-term) if you get a low score. You’re not afraid of a low score, you’re afraid of pain. In the same way, if you are afraid of getting rejected by a romantic interest, you’re not afraid of the rejection itself, but rather the pain you expect to feel if you get rejected. When we think “I fear rejection” or “I fear failure”, we have confused the physical outcome with the expected pain we expect to feel if the outcome were to happen. The truth would be “I fear the pain I expect to feel if I get rejected” or “I fear the pain I expect to feel if I fail”. We only think we fear physical outcomes because we associate them with emotional (or physical) pain.