Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger which has strong roots in human evolution. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently resulted in life-or-death consequences.

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In the modern world, individuals often fear situations in which the stakes are much lower, such as public speaking, but their bodies and brains may still treat the threat as lethal. This can trigger an extreme, although often unnecessary, fight-flight-or-freeze response. As a result, people may find themselves avoiding challenges that could benefit them in the long run or hanging back during social interactions.

When people today do face deadly or extreme danger, it can sometimes cause lingering trauma. Such trauma can trigger a fear response that is hard to quell, even when the risk has passed. We will fear the coronavirus until a vaccine emerges in 5 years and for many years after.

The process of creating fear takes place in the brain and is entirely unconscious. There are two paths involved in the fear response: The Quick Response is quick and messy, while the Thoughtful Response takes more time and delivers a more precise interpretation of events. Both processes happen simultaneously.

The idea behind the quick response is “take no chances.” If the front door to your home is suddenly knocking against the frame, it could be the wind. It could also be a burglar trying to get in. It’s far less dangerous to assume it’s a burglar and have it turn out to be the wind than to assume it’s the wind and have it turn out to be a burglar. The quick response shoots first and asks questions later.

The thoughtful response is much more cerebral. While the quick response is initiating the fear response just in case, the thoughtful response is considering all of the options. Is it a burglar, or is it the wind? Have I seen this particular stimulus before? If so, what did it mean that time? What other things are going on that might give me clues as to whether this is a burglar or a windstorm?

The sensory data regarding the door — the stimulus — is following both paths at the same time. But being thoughtful takes longer than a flash. That’s why you have a moment or two of terror before you decide to run or not.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.  Hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. It includes the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal. The difference between hope and optimism is that the former includes practical pathways to an improved future.

I hope the vaccine for the coronavirus happens on a shorter time frame than I expect. This fear will remain and will limit future improvements. But my hope is that it will enable us to see our connectedness and need for each other.

Hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual’s ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal. An individual’s ability to be hopeful depends on two types of response: the individual’s determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles and the individual belief that they can achieve these personal goals without a doubt. But it is important to set realistic goals that have a reasonable probability of being achieved. It is important for individuals to find something they can be passionate about, makes them feel good about themselves and would help them remain hopeful of their ability to achieve these goals. Hope is a way to maintain personal motivation, which ultimately will result in a greater sense of optimism.

I have high hopes!

Greed is the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.  Greed is an excessive love or desire for money or any possession. It is not merely caring about money and possessions but caring too much about them. The greedy person is too attached to his things and his money, or he desires more money and more things in an excessive way.

We tolerate greed, because we accept the hard bargain that it can do good, not that it is good.  The pursuit of self-interest is the driving force for assembling resources and putting them to their best use. Greed bears fruit in many ways.

Greed has always been the imp of capitalism, the mischief it makes for those faithful capitalists. Their troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.

But greed has taken America too far.  Companies no longer pursue increased productivity, new and improved products or new production facilities.  CEOs keep sales on a modest upward track and use cash to buy back stock which increases earnings per share.  With increases in earnings PER SHARE, the stock market rewards shareholders with a higher price. Everyone is happy including the CEO and other senior managers as their big bonuses are triggered.

I have long felt that fear, hope and greed fuel the stock market and most everything else. Look at the following chart.

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Fear is the bottom of a bear market and no one wants stocks.  Of course, it is the best time to buy.  At the top (greed), everyone believes this market will go on forever unlike any cycle in the past. It doesn’t!

Is this pandemic a means of acquainting us with suffering, so we can retreat from greed, become fearful and then regain hope again?

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