Fear and Decision-making

One key aspect of the DecisionClarity process is to examine the role that fear is playing in the mix. Fear is not only a powerful emotion, it is also part of our genetic imprinting to avoid what eminent neurologist and psychologist Rick Hansen refers to as “sticks”. Recently while on Cortes Island I attended a lecture on the brain by Hansen, author of Buddha’s Brain, who was a presenter at Hollyhock. During his presentation he reflected on the importance of fear in helping our primitive ancestors survive. “The worst mistake an early primate could make was to assume there was no tiger in the woods.” The consequence of that erroneous decision was likely fatal and as a result we are generally descended from ancestors who did not make that mistake. Unfortunately this can also result in us placing too much weight on the fear factor when we are making a decision.

He suggested that when the lower reptilian brain became geared to avoidance, we would make ten wrong assumptions of a tiger being in the woods in order to avoid the one occasion that it was there. This has resulted in an evolutionary effect where our primitive instinct is to avoid “sticks” even when there may be nothing to fear. This helps explain why fear based negative advertising is so effective; we are responding at an instinctive level to a threat whether it is real or not.

So when faced with a major decision where fear is a critical factor influencing the outcome, I suggest you explore the fear from the perspective of just how real it really is and how much of your emotion is influenced by the old reptilian avoidance of danger. Historically it may have helped us all survive but it has much less relevance today where tigers are few and far between.

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One Response to Fear and Decision-making

  1. Janyse says:

    It really doesn’t matter if there is a tiger or not but rather a belief that the tiger is there that influences our behavior. Either way it is always how we perceive it and then how we act on that perception. The lovely thing is , we can always change our perceptions. Janyse Hrynkow, MA

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