Facing Fears Is Liberating

Another Tom and Dave discussion.

“Hey Tom, do you know the paradox we are born with?”

“Can’t say that I do, Dave.”

“Let me enlighten you. All humans are born with urges toward Self-Preservation.

We want to survive, to stay alive, yet we live with the knowledge that this desire will inevitably be thwarted!”

“How did we get into this situation?”

“Well Tom, we evolved into a species that became extremely intelligent, so we were conscious of many fears. The greatest fears are:

The Fear of Pain and Suffering.

The Fear of Death. This fear is incapacitating because it literally stops us from living enjoyably.”


“Dave, I do know there are two immortality beliefs.”

“Tell me, Tom.”

“Religious belief is one that people believe literally that our existence continues in some form after death.

Then there’s Symbolic belief in which people believe they will “live on” through their work, through people they have known, through memorials marking their graves, and finally through their children.

These two beliefs help us manage the terror that comes from knowing that our physical death is inevitable.”


“Right on, Tom. The other resource for managing terror is a feeling of personal significance known as Self-Esteem.

Self-Esteem helps us to believe we are important beings rather than just creatures destined to be obliterated.”


“Facing Pain and Suffering is a problem isn’t it, Dave?”

“Yes my friend, but we can do it. As long as we are embodied (incased in a body), we will be vulnerable to Pain. Because of this we are susceptible to illness and accidents. We must face the pain of getting old and seeing our body wear out. Pain is a fact of life, but when you face it you will be free of the fear.”

“Life has its sweetness and its dreadfulness. To live enjoyably we MUST ACCEPT life as it is.”

“Right on Tom. Now what about suffering? Suffering occurs when the mine responds NEGATIVELY to pain.

So, it follows, Pain in life is inevitable while suffering is OPTIONAL!

“What brings on suffering, Dave?”

“Suffering is generated by RESISTANCE, which is wanting the moment to be other than it actually is.

Some people respond to illness, in themselves or loved ones, with fear, panic and anger.

This is resisting the pain of life and the more we resist, the greater our suffering.”

“What do we do, Dave?”

“Deep breathing is great therapy. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You will feel relaxed and you will be in the Here and Now.”


“Dave, what about facing the grim reaper?”

“When you face death you will free yourself from the fear and give you a greater appreciation for every moment you have.

So, reflecting on and facing the grim reaper is not only liberating but essential to living a full satisfying life.”

“I see, Dave, face our fears and we are liberated to enjoy the Here and Now and our minds will be tranquil.”

“Yes Tom, and often we forget that our lives are TRANSITORY, NOT PERMANENT, plus we have a habit of worrying over everything, but when we face death we recognize that worrying is Not worth the fight and agro.”

We both were quiet for a minute soaking up the knowledge.

“Tom, it will help to liberate you if you remember these five statements:

I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.

I am subject to illness, mental and physical. Illness is unavoidable.

I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.

Someday I will be separated and parted from the people that are dear to me.

What I do, good or bad, I will reap.


“Tom, when you are deep breathing be aware of each breath and then:

Notice how great it is to be alive this day.”

Silence to ponder.

“In conclusion:

If we can live in the Present and Accept that all things are impermanent, we can enjoy this moment, right now.


Why Do We Believe?

A Tom and Dave Discussion—That Popular Blog Series.

“Hey Tom, I think “BELIEF” would be an important subject to discuss because I find it surprising that so little research has been done on it, since it exerts such a great influence over human life.”

“I agree, Dave, since we are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our reasoning, we need to find out what belief is all about.”

“Tom, do you remember the TV series The X Files?”

“Yes, I do, I even remember the catchphrases:

“Trust No One”, “I Want To Believe”, “The Truth Is Out There”, “Question Everything”. It was a good series.”

“That series was all about skeptics and believers in a struggle between reality and fantasy, fact and fiction and government secrets.

Do you believe the truth is out there?”

“Oh yes, Dave, I’m a skeptic BUT I want to believe and I want to know.

But how can we know the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true?”

“I guess Science is the answer. We live in The Age of Science where beliefs are supposed to be grounded in solid evidence and empirical (verifiable observation) data.”

“Why then, do 75% of people believe in religion and only 45% believe in science such as The Theory of Evolution? Doesn’t science mean anything to the 75%?”

“That’s disturbing, but it seems to me beliefs come first and reasons for them follow. Our brains find patterns in the world, and these patterns are formed from both meaningful and meaningless data and then we infuse them with meaning until they become beliefs. From then on, we find confirmatory evidence to support those beliefs.”

“Give me a simple answer to Why People Believe?”

“The nitty gritty is that our brains are Belief Engines!

Data flows in from the senses and the brain looks for patterns and then infuses them with meaning. It tries to explain why things happen and in doing so it shapes our understanding of reality.”

“Very interesting.”

“Here’s another interesting point:

Reality exists independent of human minds, BUT our understanding of it depends upon our beliefs.”


“Tom, have you ever heard the statement:

Your Worldview is NOT the World!”

“Yes I have, Dave, everything we know about reality enters our brains via one or more of our five senses.”

“That’s right, Tom, a person living in a specific location on Earth will encounter No more than 1% of all the info and experiences that are available on the planet.

We won’t read all the books or visit all the places and we won’t meet all the people or see all the animals or insects.

The “world” each of us labels as “reality” is in fact a CONSTRUCT in our brain, built from the miniscule slivers of data we take in through our senses.”

Two questions, Dave:

Why does our world feel like the whole world to us?

Why do we believe anything BEYOND the concrete, present-moment data gathered by our senses?”

“Our world is what comes in from our senses. But to survive in the world we need our beliefs to give us confidence.

Since full awareness of reality is NOT an option, evolution has equipped us with a brain capable of generating an illusion (model) of reality in our small worlds.”


“Hey Dave, I’ve heard that “beliefs are absolutely necessary to life”, is this true?”

“That’s right, my friend, without beliefs we would have no context to understand ourselves and our lives.

We would be ineffective. Our brains generate beliefs because they are necessary for biological survival.

We actively pursue and trust as true, info we have not personally verified in order to experience our lives in a context we feel good about.”

“Tom, do you know how our brains convince us that we are RIGHT in our beliefs?”

“I guess it’s quite a process involving intuition and reasoning and cognitive biases (feel or show an inclination for prejudgment for or against someone or something).”

“Right again, Tom, I think we better examine this in detail.

The motto is: Intuition First, Reasoning Second. That’s how our minds handle things. Once we have beliefs we maintain and reinforce them through a number of powerful cognitive HEURISTICS that guarantee our beliefs are correct.”


“Yes Tom, a heuristic is a mental method of solving a problem through intuition or trial and error. These heuristics are sometimes called Rules of Thumb, better known as cognitive biases.”

“How does that method work?”

“Okay Tom, I’ll play the Budda. A joke to lighten your day!

No matter what belief system is in place—religious, philosophical, political or social—these cognitive biases shape how we interpret info that comes through our senses and molds it to fit the way we want the world to be but NOT necessarily how it really is.


“Very interesting, Dave.”

“Lets look at four of these Biases:

Hindsight Bias—the tendency to reconstruct the PAST to fit with the PRESENT.

These are the “Monday Morning Quarterbacks”—after a weekend of games we all know what plays should have been called but weren’t!

We are critical of leaders after events have happened—thinking they should of seen these events coming.

Self-Justification Bias—is the tendency to RATIONALIZE decisions after the fact, to convince ourselves that what we did was the best thing to do.

Sunk-Cost Bias—the tendency to believe in something because of the COST sunk into that belief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost billions with thousands of war dead and casualties, but the leaders said “we have to stay the course” and soldiers cannot die in vain.

Bias Blind Spot—the tendency to recognize the power of biases in other people but to be blind to their influences on our beliefs.”

“Wow! That’s quite a list.”

“Well Tom, The Truth Is Out There!

Science is so potent because it employs a well-defined method for getting answers to questions about the world. It uses empiricism, evidence and observational experiments.”

“All I can say, Dave, is Question Everything and Trust No One.”

“Right on, Tom.”

There was a moment of silence to soak up all the points of the discussion.

“The human species who weighs all the decisions with cold hard logic and rational analysis probably never existed.

Mr. Spock is fiction!

If you analyse everything you would stand frozen in indecision—Analysis Paralysis.”

“I guess Dave, a leap of faith beyond reason is often required just to get through the day, let alone make big life decisions.”

“That’s right, we are all trying to make sense of the world and nature has provided us with a double-edged sword that cuts FOR and AGAINST.

On one edge our brains are great info-processing machines capable of understanding many things.

On the other edge, we are also capable of self-deception and illusion, fooling ourselves even when we are trying to avoid being fooled.”


“Well Tom, in conclusion I will say: