If you truly saw the actual consequences in all of life and all the feared mistakes and losses you will have in life, you would no longer suffer about it all.

When Byron Katie instantly left years of depression, she simply did so by asking a clear question "Is it true?  Is it absolutely true?"  [A corollary question could be:  Is it real?  Does it exist in reality?]   And she stopped believing in her primitive mind's "dire consequences" programming. 

Or in philosophies of all sort, they ask us to be "in the moment".  What that really means, in my interpretation, is that we can have something happen that we think is bad or will be bad, and we simply need to ask ourselves the question:  what is actually, visibly and in reality, happening in my life at this exact moment?  Am I feeling actual pain or am I physically ok (and maybe tensing by choice in response to my thoughts).  But one' s actual physical world, what is actually happening, is good (even great!).  The picture in our brain of some dire result is not actually happening in the real world, only in our mind - and we can choose not to keep creating it in our mind - and notice what is actually here.

One effect of this exercise is, if you do it frequently, you'll notice that things are just fine, at least 99+% of the time in your physical world (if you don't monkey with it too much).  This lets your brain know that things are ok and that you're safe and to go off looking for good things to do.

In psychology, the counselor will often ask the client to relate the whole chain of consequences the client is predicting from what occurs - and when the client does that to the fullest degree the ultimate conclusions are that one is exaggerating and/or making up something that is untrue.  Well, duh!  (The client who is willing to do this, especially in writing, will always get better faster!  And will live a much better life.)

Why run our lives based on fears and false threats?


(Adam Smith is a famous economist.)

“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. [And because of this our behavior becomes more exaggerated or desperate to get what we want or to avoid what we don't want.]  Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.”

                                 ― Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Based on this discussion of "moral" sentiments, we can conclude that the penalty of the "bad" behavior is greater than the worth of the getting what we want versus not getting what we want.  We "over-rate" what the difference is in how we will react and feel about reaching the goal or not reaching it and suffering the dreaded consequences.  In truth, when we "get there", the anticipated reward feels either empty or soon disappears.  When we get to the undesired consequence, the effect of it is zero within three months in almost all cases.


The classic is the study of millionaire lottery winners and people who just became paraplegic.  At first, they anticipate how they will feel and it is how they feel, indeed, at the time.  But one year later, though we anticipated happiness or unhappiness due to our condition, the study shows we return to our original level of happiness before the event.  There is no difference.

Reason 1:  We are adaptive in terms of our having a device in the brain that is a "psychological immune system", which has evolved into us, so we always get the effect.  When we get "there", things just don't seem as bad (or as good) as we thought they would because we have adapted and our brain "made it ok".  [Hard to imagine, huh?  But the factual studies prove the result was that we ended up ok.]

Reason 2:  We actually have lots of things we can still do even if we are paraplegic.  We have adapted to the condition and simply use our left over abundance of human abilities to live a good life. 


One of the top examples of this:  W. Mitchell, badly burned and then later crippled: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do.  Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have

Other examples are in the section where something "bad" happened or one had a bad past:  Bad Past, Good Life.   Almost all of us would have predicted that the future would be "bad", but in all cases we were wrong.  Almost anything is "not so bad" and we'll "be ok". 


The point here is:

1.  You, as a mental hedge to err on the safe side perhaps, dramatically mispredict the future and how awful it will be.  It turns out there is very little or no difference, so there is nothing to fear.

2.  You can make yourself miserable just worrying about things or saying "I will be happy when...", which implies "I won't be happy until...happens."  So we suffer now, in anticipation, alot more than we actually will later - and for no good.  Be happy now and know that things will take care of themselves or we will do something to make better of it.  (See Fearlessness.)

3.  We create and add meaning to things that are actually neutral, and if that meaning is negative, we then get to experience a negative emotion - but if we saw it as neutral (or relatively neutral), we would not suffer at all.

4.  If we constantly recreate in our minds the concern about our prediction, we then experience more negative emotion in total than we would experience if we actually had the consequence occur

And if we negatively fear a number of different consequences, not all of them will happen, so we will then have experienced 5 times as much angst as the actual predicted item could have possibly given us. 

But, since our anticipated angst at the time of the occurrence is far less than was estimated, we would have instead, in the anticipation, experienced 50 times the amount of angst in the anticipation as we would in the actual occurrence.  And any effect of the actual occurrence tends to go to zero, so we actually only would have had, at most, some passing discomfort - no big deal, and it will soon disappear!!!  It is impermanent, as is said in Buddhism, where they speak of the illusion of permanence [often in preposterously obvious cases of impermanence or just plain non-existence].  See Suffering And Struggle and, in how to look at things, Intelligent Optimism.


At this point, you are probably not quite so convinced.  Sure there is evidence to prove it, but it "seems" that things would be awful if the "bad" consequences happen and that it would persist (the latter is another error in the prediction process, as it always persists less than we think, most often dramatically less than we would think). 

Now it wouldn't matter if you agreed with this or not except that the consequences of your not "getting" it fully ("grokking" it) is that you will continue to create angst (unpleasant emotions and unhappiness) that is totally unjustified and untrue and useless.  It is totally needless suffering with no useful side effect - and it is all around something that is actually only imagined, what is called a "mental construct" - yet we treat it as if it were real.  See The Reality Conundrum - Letting Go Of Fear

The concepts of the Eastern disciplines have been hammered out over centuries and stood the test of time (see Why Are Buddhist Monks So Happy?).  It would seem silly to invalidate them, but many of us do. 

I absolutely believe they are correct and since the effects of wrong thinking here are so very, very impactful on our lives, it would seem to be worth lots and lots and lots of our time to learn about this and to "grok" it - so that we can then be much happier in our lives!    I would recommend you keep at it until you are masterful at it, for it will be absolutely crucial for eliminating much suffering.