Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consequences unseen…

There are always consequences to every action we take in the world. While we tend to like the "good" consequences and disfavor the "bad" consequences, the unexpected consequences are the ones we tend to fear. (bigger versions)

When we the anticipate consequences of our actions, either good or bad, we have sense of control. We can feel that we succeeded or failed because of our actions. However, if we are faced with unexpected consequences then we are immediately aware that we are not in control of the situation. There is always an uneasiness about not being in control (even when the consequences results in something good) - sometimes there's an associated thrill about it, a rush of adrenaline and if we expect it (as in an amusement park) then we can regain our sense of control.

When we really don't anticipate it though… that adrenaline rush, that excitement, often leads to fear. It's strange in a way that unseen consequences of our actions can lead to fear in an adult and only raw amusement in a child. It is only after a child has begun to build an internal framework that can predict what will happen next that the unexpected begins to result in uneasiness. The framework that makes us feel safe (and comfortable and powerful and in control) may also be the reason we begin to fear the unknown. Fear that comes from a challenge to our expectations of what will happen…

Perhaps this is the reason that we fear more the threat against our expectations of how things work than any direct challenge to ourselves. A threat to our beliefs can evoke more emotion than a threat to ourselves. A system we know (whether we like it or not) can much more comfortable than one we haven't yet seen. Even when we know something in the system is broken and really needs to be changed - the older we get, the more we fear that change.

The strangest thing is that often the fondest childhood memories are of a time before we really had an understanding of how the world works - when things weren't predictable and the unexpected was around every corner.