Ch1 L3: Fear (Part 1 – confidence)

  1. Registering the thing [1] happened in less than a microsecond; then in order to survive, our brain needs to decide if it’s a danger or not, consequently to execute the best reaction. Imagine that you absolutely had no earthly knowledge to evaluate the thing, how would you decide if it’s dangerous or not? [2]

The Thing

  1. To survive, our brain would identify it as a danger by default. You must’ve experienced this situation when you walked in a dark room or corridor even in your own house; even if you’d seen the room and walked the floor, you would’ve expected that something might hurt (or even attack) you.
  2. The evaluation (to call the thing dangerous) would take place in a fraction of a second before we even start to think about it. That’s how we’ve evolved. Those who could respond to danger faster survived and transferred their genes to their precedents. Our brain almost instantaneously decides if something is dangerous or not which can be gently redefined as disliking or liking things [3]. Then it quickly sends signals to different organs to react. This is one of the moments when spending extra energy is justified. [4]
  3. The flow of signals through our body creates emotions and the state of being aware of those emotions is called feeling. At this point, regarding the thing, you must feel fear. [5]
  4. Fear is the most fundamental, vital and dominant emotion which has evolved to keep us alive; yet we’ve shortsightedly related it solely to cowardice and labeled it as a negative emotion. It’s the most fundamental emotion because it alerts us about dangers which are related to Death, the most fundamental fact of all time [6]. It’s also dominant because it can hijack brain which we’re gonna study through the next post. So, it’s very important for us to become aware of fear and its role.
  5. To understand the mechanism of the brain, I’d like to use the danger spectrum which ranges from absolute safety (?) to Death. You see that based on where your confidence stands, you can fight some problems and you need to flee from the other which is called fight or flight response. [7,8]


  1. But what is confidence? To answer this question, let’s go back to the main story: if your brain were absolutely empty, how would you know if you could fight the thing or not? So, we can say that confidence is an estimation of our power/skills whose accuracy depends on self-awareness. In the first post, we discussed that to fight Death we need to know both ourselves and dangers [9]. Here comes the first challenge: how can we evaluate our power?
  2. In the realm of imagination, if we could isolate ourselves, the self-evaluation would go through a process of trial and error with some deductions. For example, if you could lift a 20-kg stone, then you’d know that you could lift a 15-kg stone (deduction), but you couldn’t say if you were able to lift a 30-kg stone which needed at least one more experiment. So, we’d become aware of our strengths and weaknesses through experiences [10]
  3. However, in reality, others’ judgments or standards can affect our evaluation in positive or negative ways. For instance, if you’re struggling with a math problem and you’re about to give up (switching your brain to the flight mode), then your teacher came and told you: “I believe that you can do it.” This sentence which is an external estimation of your power would boost your confidence, so you’d spend more energy and finally might find the answer. On the other hand, if your strength is evaluated unrealistically high, say, you’re told that you could take the higher-level math, which you’re not prepared for, you’d fail and it would shatter your confidence; or if your strength were underestimated, you’d stop trying even if you’d have the capability to tackle the problem.
  4. Now you know that the level of confidence can rise or drop after experiences, it can also be affected by our mood and physical strength. For example, if you feel tired or you’re grieving, you might not accept an invitation to participate in, say, a sports tournament.
  5. To wrap up this part, we can say that the level of fear depends on the ratio of danger to confidence which we’re gonna explore while talking about functions. Through this post, we mainly discussed the fight and flight response and its relation to confidence. In the next post, we will continue discussing fear and its advantages or drawbacks.

Exercise 3:

  1. We discussed that the first reaction to an unknown thing is fear. Think about the historical paradigm shift so nowadays we say that an unknown thing can be seen as an opportunity.
  2. Regarding the previous exercise, think why babies don’t feel fear so much and try almost every new thing?
  3. How can unrealistically high or low confidence cause depression?
  4. Think about the relative confidence or power (compared to others). Why do we tend to belittle others? Why do kids make fun of or bully each other? Do you think that it’s inherent or acquired? How can we relate racism, sexism, or chauvinism to relative confidence?
  5. There are 25 horses among which you need to find out the fastest 3 horses. You can conduct race among at most 5 to find out their relative speed. At no point, you can find out the actual speed of the horse in a race. Find out how many races are required to get the top 3 horses.


[1] I strongly recommend you to start the journey from the first post to see what we have developed so far. Here are the links to the first and second post.

[2] To empty your brain, you would need to forget about the concept of flowers as well, because even if we see a special one for the first time, based on quite a few mental tools, we know that most probably it’s not dangerous or at least we know that it’s not gonna attack us, so we can easily approach it. But, if you saw a flower for the first time without any background knowledge, how would you know that it wouldn’t jump and kill you like a ninja or it wasn’t a camouflaged animal?

[3] The first impression is one of the examples of fast judgment in daily interactions. Disliking someone means that we subliminally find them dangerous which may or may not be true.

[4] We discussed the concept of minergy, our brain’s tendency to spend the minimum energy, in the first post. Here’s the link. Paragraph 10

[5] We should know that it’s not easy to be aware of our true emotions for a couple of reasons: First of all, they can be too weak to be detected; while walking in a familiar path, your body experiences the emotion of fear, but you don’t feel it because it’s too faint to be detected. Secondly, your brain may be involved with other activities, so you can’t feel your emotions; say, you might forget being hungry or tired while reading a book. Thirdly, you might misinterpret them; a cliché example would be that you feel hatred towards someone but in fact, you love them. Finally some people, stereotypically men, may not know the difference between feelings and thoughts and when they’re asked to express their feelings, they describe their thoughts.

[6] Link to the first post: Paragraph 1

[7] For more information, you can refer to Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman which we’re gonna refer to, in the next post.

[8] The real power is not the criterion to go for fight or flight. If you think that you had $10 in your pocket, you might attempt to buy a cup of coffee but at the coffee shop, you’d realize that you had only $1. So in terms of the fight and flight response, if you’d been aware of your real power, you would’ve picked the flight, but with the wrong evaluation, you went for the fight.

[9] Link to the first post: Paragraph 4.

[10] Unlike materials which can be tested and their strength can be predicted, to evaluate our strength, due to our complexity, there’s still no way better than trial and error. Comparing one’s power with others might cause more harm than benefit.


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