walking on custard

Guest Post: “98% of Fears”

24 Mar 2015

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

To my genuine surprise, today I’m posting a guest blog post!

It had never occurred to me that anybody else would want to write something for this blog, so I was absolutely delighted yesterday to find this post in my email inbox.

Apparently Ian Denny had an idea and felt sufficiently motivated to write it up and send it in.

So, over to Ian…

Hi Neil. I was reading your blog and I suddenly felt inspired to write a guest blog post!

But then the inner critic piped up!

Ian’s Inner Critic: What the f*ck? Who do you think you are? Why the hell would he want a guest blog post? You’re no good at writing as well or as humorously as that guy!

So thank you for introducing me to the inner critic. I never knew he existed. (And thanks, now I’ll never know whether or not you created him or whether he (or she, not sure yet) was there all along.)

For the sake of bloody well getting on with it, I’ll give you (and your own critic) the benefit of the doubt, because deep down, I can hear him (or her, or a cake or a goat).

Anyway, I once read somewhere that 98% of our fears never happen.

Immediately, that creates a fear – a fear that I don’t have somewhere to attribute that fact to. Or whether it was one of those made-up statistics or whether it was scientifically proven.

Then I have a fear that it’s not possible to scientifically prove it – how the hell would you document the fears that pop up in somebody’s head? Could anyone keep up with the pace? Has a machine yet been invented to tot up all those ludicrous fears we conjure up? Which USB slot on the back of my head would you plug it in to?

Whatever. In the same spirit of benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume it’s correct. 98% of our fears never happen. And out of those that do happen, they are never as bad as you fear.

Regardless of what the inner critic says, my gut feeling tells me this is true. When I reflect on the fears I have, they rarely – if ever – happen. And when something has happened, I can now honestly say that they were never anywhere near as bad as I feared – although they felt pretty bad at the time.

This is actually very profound when you consider it. It’s almost a throwaway concept which many people will mentally (and physically) nod in agreement with… but then pick up their phone to check their latest Facebook updates and forget about.

Yet what does it really mean?

It can actually help an awful lot with anxiety. Let’s take an example – the fear you have right now. What is it?

Yes, you do have a fear. If you’re smugly sitting there thinking you are fear-free, you’re not listening. Somewhere, hidden behind the sofa of your mind is a fear. Whispering barely audibly about how bad it will be if it comes true. Sometimes when it’s quiet you’ll tune in and hear the exact words.

Now, instead of switching off like you normally do, it’s okay to listen to this fear. Tune into it. Because this time we have an answer.

Don’t smugly bleat out the answer. Firstly, thank your inner critic for bringing it to your attention. After all, it’s looking after your best interests. And then calmly explain that while you recognise there is a possibility that that particular fear may come to fruition, you can now simply relax. Because 98% of the time it will not happen. And even if it does, it is never as bad as you think.

So why waste 100% of our time fearing stuff that almost always never happens? Why not simply stop fearing all together?

Ian’s Inner Critic: It’s a fair cop. I’ll shut up for a while. But I’ll be back. You’ll forget about that 98% thing soon enough.

Neil Hughes

Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.

Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."

He would like it if you said hello.

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