TL;DR What we label as irrational fears outside of clinically-defined phobias are often grounded in reality, and are actually quite rational.
I see what’s labeled “rational” fears as ones that are preventable through doctrine or education: these aren’t necessarily “rational” fears as “preventable harm”. Since these are preventable, we can reason ourselves through scenarios.
We can learn from watching others make mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes, as the lessons are linear and transferable: hot stove burns skin, whether your skin or my skin. We can use logic or reasonable routines to overcome most of Fears of Certain Outcomes, including bracing ourselves for an airplane taking off just as the question, “Have I Turned Off The Stove” enters our minds.
(By the way, I never have the fear of forgetting to turn off stoves, because I rarely ever turn on stoves, because I don’t like/know how to cook.)
Right after I lost the thrill for Uncertain Outcomes, when the world was full of wonder and peril, and when curiosity fueled both flames of knowledge and potential for self-destruction, I developed Fear of Uncertain Outcomes.
Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are the fears that permeate my mind. For me, these are the fears that really matter, because Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are constant and are grounded in reality. In fact I think these are the true “rational” fears.
Fear of Uncertain Outcomes are labeled “irrational” fears only because we cannot prevent what we dread through education or preparation: We cannot control Fears of Uncertain Outcomes by manipulating our environment. We cannot engineer away Fears of Uncertain Outcomes by logic and reason our intellect has developed.
This is no longer “hot stove burns skin, whether your skin or my skin” — no longer “If… Then.”
This is non linear, not always correlative, too many confounding factors and spurious results.
We are entering “If… Maybe” territory.
Fears of Uncertain Outcomes come from seeing bad things happen to good people and seeing good things happen to bad people, from suspecting that no one can – or will – remember you long after you die when enough generations have passed, from wondering whether anything you do truly matters, from realizing that no matter how you hold onto “love” you may lose “love” (worse yet — lose love to heinous harm and death itself).
Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are rational exercises in futility. These fears are grounded in reality, maybe not always from immediate life experience (thank goodness) but certainly from seeing these uncertain outcomes manifest in others’ lives and in society at large.
Fears of Uncertain Outcomes have endured civilizations, evidenced by ancient and recent rituals and rites aimed to neutralize disturbances or turn god’/s’ favors one way or another. We gain strange comfort in believing we are doing something to steer what was never in our reins/reigns.
Sometimes I wonder if passion and inspiration are truly the drivers of what great innovation and discoveries men have made — or whether Fear of Uncertain Outcomes is the true driver. Do I really want to change the world, or am I afraid of not making a big enough ripple, that my existence stops mattering too quickly?
I can’t be sure that my name won’t fade beyond 3 generations of my own immediate family, I expect to be forgotten by the time my familial title becomes “great, great grandmother”. I don’t pull the same rank as mortals whose names are immortalized by their contribution to mankind, nor does my luck/determination/pedigree/resourcefulness/ambition rise to such level.
But even geniuses and (im)mortals have their existence reduced to a label or a type of contribution — what they produced or created. We rarely go beyond who they are as human beings, because we don’t have time to get to know every single one of these “important beings”. Our physical and virtual vessels of information are already overflowing and each generation brings new important beings into history…. there is just no time to not reduce each person to the “one or two” important thing(s) s/he did.
Then should I go through life not doing, because no matter what I do, I can never secure a relevance to my existence? Should I go through life not loving, because no matter how I try, I can never prevent loss? Should I not bother aiming anywhere, because nowhere can be far or high enough to guarantee the multidimensional immortality that I crave?
Because I am a fool.
I know all this is not going to matter in the end. I expect to be forgotten as a matter of natural course. I understand all that I love, I will lose, even if I get to be lucky enough to be lost (die) first.
Every step I take through Fear of Uncertain Outcomes is a choice of courage. This is the only real choice I get to make.
I go through life tallying these choices of courage: these are the only “real” things I get to take with me when passing from life…. and I hate leaving empty-handed.