Sunday, August 24, 2008

The fear of losing comfort

As i promised in my last post, I will more into detail why we choose instant over delayed gratification most of the time. The key concept for this is: The Fear of Loss of Comfort (FLC)

Pretty much all people (including you) make a very big part of their decisions based on fears. Be it
  • the fear of getting hurt (physically or emotionally),
  • the fear of going hungry (when you eat),
  • the fear of dying (when you choose not to go bungee jumping or skydiving),
  • the fear of being rejected (when you meet someone new),
  • the fear of not being loved (when you try to be nice to people you like),
  • the fear of hurting someone that you love (when you are not up front and you don't speak your mind if you don't like something that the other person does),
  • the fear of getting fired (when you suck up to your boss),
  • the fear of gaining weight (when you go on a diet),
  • the fear of financial instability (when you take a job you don't enjoy doing),
  • the fear of losing something you own (when you refuse to lend something to someone),
  • the fear of being cheated (when you go into an expensive store to buy something, while you can get it on EBay for half the price),
  • the fear of being useless (when people never ask for your opinion)

As you can see we have a huge amount of fears and this list is only a small part. All of us make many of our decisions controlled by at least one of these fears. You may call it our instinct for survival, which 50,000 years ago, when we lived in caves, were the one that kept us alive day by day based on these fears. Today however things have changed quite a bit, and many of these fears became either obsolete or counterproductive. If you know a person well enough, you can lend him your stuff without too big of a risk (some people still refuse), or if you meet someone new and they reject you, the consequences are usually nonexistent (50,000 years ago if you upset someone who you didn't know, chances were that you could have gotten killed by that person).

The same is true for mos of the fears and even though having a healthy sense of fear is many times useful, you cannot let yourself be controlled by them, you cannot afford to make your decisions based on fears, because most of the time, they are incorrect. You need to keep an objective perspective on the situation.

So you might be asking yourself: "How do I get away from acting on fears? Heck, how can I tell if I'm acting on a fear, if there are so many of them?"

This brings us to our key concept, the fear of losing comfort (FLC). Why is this a key concept? Well to put it simply, because this is the only true fear that we have. All fears come down to avoiding some form of comfort loss. We have a situation that we're comfortable in and we don't want that to change, since we MIGHT not like the consequences. At least according to our instinct of survival, which as I mentioned, is very VERY outdated.

So let me repeat this, when we are in a situation that we like, we will resist any kind of change, due to the fear of losing the state of comfort that we're in. Even if the change would assure us of a 95% chance of improvement to our level of comfort, the FLC will start screaming about that 5%, and if you're not able to control your fear you will act on it, and chose to stay in your current state.

To make it more clear how lose of comfort is the common element for all fears, I'll give you a few examples:
the fear of dying (when you choose not to go bungee jumping or skydiving) - what bigger discomfort is there then to be dead

the fear of being rejected (when you meet someone new) - you are currently in a state of comfort, if you try and meet somebody and get rejected, you will feel uncomfortable

the fear of not being loved (when you try to be nice to people you like) - being loved is a very comfortable state you're in, losing that love would create huge amount of discomfort

the fear of getting fired (when you suck up to your boss) - losing your job would create a very uncomfortable situation for you

All fears come down to some kind of loss of comfort, thus the only true fear is the fear of losing comfort(FLC). So every time you're in a situation that you're comfortable in and a certain action would require you to lose that state of comfort, you can be pretty sure that a fear will pop up and try to talk you out of making the action that will make you lose comfort, that would deny your INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

Instant gratification (IG) is pretty much a form of FLC. IG gives you instant comfort and satisfies your FLC or at least avoids the loss of comfort.

So every time you act on IG you are acting on a fear, on the FLC.

This is a very bad tendency, since delayed gratification is usually more profitable in the long run.


  1. The basis for all these fears enumerated is the fear of death. Not physical death, but death of the forms I as a person (actually I as the Ego) have identified with. What is comfort? We can define it the certainty that something – be it a person, a situation, an object and so on (our relationship for instance) stays the same. Somehow part of our self gets extended by those comfortable things and we fear that by losing one or all of them we'll be less than before. We can say that when one of those things goes away (they are all forms, and forms eventually dissolve), a part of us dies. Think about a relationship in which you've invested a lot. Surely you heard people saying their partner is their reason to live. At least in the beginning of the relationship :). When you get dumped your inner self diminishes. Puff! A big part of you goes away. You are less. We are all afraid of dying. Our ego is afraid of dying. I disagree when you say FLC it is outdated. Everyone of us does this today. We “grow” as a person (I like to say our Ego grows) with each thing we put our identity into – my car, my money, my girlfriend, my job and so on. In my view, I can place an equality sign between the fear of dying (again, not physical death) and FLC.

  2. Thanks for the reply Dan.

    Well, you pretty much said the same thing I did with other words :)

    Let me ask you this: Is being afraid of having your Ego die, a good way to live your life. Being controlled by the fear, that your Ego will get hurt. Is that the highest level you can live your life at?

    Because in essence this is what I'm talking about, letting your decisions be controlled by a fear. (regardless that you name it FLC or your Ego dying).

    Not taking certain risks because your afraid. But a fear that doesn't really help you most of the time.

  3. Yes, same thing with other words which I am more familiar with.

    How many people are actually aware they want their Ego to die / don't need FLC anymore?

    I'd say (have not checked it, but I can bet on it) they are not aware that the fear is affecting their lives so deeply.

    I think that in the moment you realize it is fear you are experiencing, you don't see taking decisions that may affect your comfort as risk. They simply become decisions, with no good / bad label attached to them. And then you just take them, without thinking so much of the outcome.