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Disappearing Fear

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Disappearing Fear

Disappearing Fear

Disappearing Fear

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/377519199/377524176" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Is it possible to disappear fear? Lulu tries to find out by confronting one of her biggest fears. Then, the story of a man who tried something bizarre to eliminate his debilitating fear of rejection.

ALIX SPIEGEL, HOST:

This is INVISIBILIA. I'm Alix Spiegel. Today, we are looking at fear, asking, can we disappear fear? And we have two experiments coming up with people who have tried to get rid of their fear. So let me introduce you to our first test subject.

OK, so can you please say your whole name?

LULU MILLER, HOST:

Louisa Elizabeth Miller

SPIEGEL: And what's the name you go by?

MILLER: Lulu.

SPIEGEL: Lulu. Lulu Miller. Perhaps, you've heard of her. She is our test subject today because, you see, Lulu has what seems like a completely intractable, utterly unmanageable and really, if you've seen it in action, surprisingly floridly expressed fear of snakes.

MILLER: Yes. I have had a lifelong fear of snakes, the kind that is so basic and huge.

SPIEGEL: Paralyzing?

MILLER: Paralyzing. That I just always assumed it was innate.

GREG DOWNEY: I'm afraid it probably isn't. You know, this is what's so interesting about it.

MILLER: This is Greg Downey, a scientist at Macquarie University in Australia who revealed to me the unsettling truth.

DOWNEY: You know, kids are not instinctually afraid of snakes. You do have to turn it on.

MILLER: So I wondered, if it's not actually written into my genes, could I just stop being afraid of the snake?

DOWNEY: Absolutely. Absolutely, we can change our level of fear. I mean, that's - it's kind of one of the things that makes humans so different from other animals. The first human who picked up a spear and actually didn't run away panicked when dinner came calling was overriding fear. You know, our ancestors, when they hunted - that's amazing that they did that. I don't know if there's too many other species who - I don't know if there's any - who've moved from being prey to predator.

MILLER: Now, how do we actually do this? Greg says it's thanks to a special human gift.

DOWNEY: The fact that you can talk to yourself in your own head.

MILLER: What's often called executive function.

DOWNEY: This is incredibly powerful.

MILLER: Because, suddenly, if your body's telling you to flee, you can use that little executive in your head to ignore it.

DOWNEY: And I think, as a species, our evolution depended upon our ancestors not being afraid of things that were perfectly reasonable to be afraid of.

MILLER: And so I decided that, like the ancestors that came before me, I was going to see if I could use my little executive brain to overcome my snake fear. That's right, Alix. It was going to be a battle of new brain versus old brain, thinker verse fearer, me versus me.

Tonight it's her versus her.

OK. So first stop was I needed to deduce the precise source of the snake fear. What exactly is causing it? And when I started asking around about this, I found that most people had the same feeling about snakes as I did, that it's not the bite that is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's the movement of it actually. I don't know why, but it's the movement. It is definitely the movement.

MILLER: It's the slither.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's just looks like it's pushing off nothing.

MILLER: So I dug deeper. Why is the slither so disturbing?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: It's unnatural, like it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Uncanny. Maybe that - the word is uncanny.

MILLER: And the best that people could articulate was just that the movement didn't make sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: I have no idea how they do it, you know?

MILLER: Which is a strange property of fear, if you think about it, that a simple lack of understanding can make fear chemicals spurt through our bodies. But, hey, there you go. So, Alix, here is the question; if the fear derives from the unknow-ability of the snake's slither, if we simply learn how they worked, could we make the fear go away?

SPIEGEL: So essentially, was your question could I cure myself if on a rational level, I understood...

MILLER: Yep.

SPIEGEL: ...How this was possible?

MILLER: Yes.

DAVID HU: I think it's even in the Bible that snakes - I'm going to paraphrase this. How in the world does this thing work?

MILLER: This is David Hu, a mechanical engineer at Georgia Tech.

You know? I almost - I remember reading that...

The Bible says the slither defies comprehension.

HU: It's a mysterious thing. So I think if they say something's unknowable in the Bible, it just kind of draws you in.

MILLER: Draws you in, especially if you do what David Hu does for a living, which is basically to put numbers to the living world.

HU: That's about right. This field is the physics of living systems.

MILLER: So fresh out of grad school, David Hu made it his mission to decode the slither...

HU: When I first started this problem, I was actually in a place where there are very few snakes, New York City. And there's these secret snake expos where basically people raise snakes in their basement and then they bring them to this expo and then sell them for $10 each. And so I basically had to take the New York subway and get a pile of snakes. And I didn't have anything to transport them, so I put them in my shirt.

MILLER: What? No.

HU: Well, I didn't have a car.

MILLER: What? And you had just had - got on the subway with snakes in your shirt?

HU: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

MILLER: No, (laughter) that does not seem like a good idea.

So after bringing to life a nightmare too terrifying for us snake-ophobes to even dream up - that the man sitting next to you on the subway has a wriggling colony of snakes concealed under his jacket...

HU: Three corn snakes and one boa constrictor.

MILLER: ...David Hu goes back to his lab.

HU: And the first thing we do is film them.

MILLER: He lets them out, one at a time, onto a smooth board.

HU: I still remember watching the first snake move. It's really a magical thing when a snake - you see a snake move on a featureless surface, on a completely flat surface, your heart starts beating faster.

MILLER: So with his camera rigged up directly over the snake, he starts measuring every single part of the snake he can think of.

HU: Every single curve on its body, the way the curves are shaped, how often the curves are placed on the ground.

MILLER: Trying to figure out how the snakes are moving so darn fast.

HU: How they get enough force to move them forward so effortlessly.

MILLER: Was it something in the trigonometry of their muscles, or was it something more surface level?

HU: How they use their belly scales.

MILLER: Friction, essentially.

So the first thing Hu figured out is that the snakes had this special kind of friction, what's called anisotropic friction...

HU: Anisotropic friction.

MILLER: ...Where the friction works more intensely in one direction. And so to see how much of a role this plays in their speed, all he would have to do is see how the snake moves without scales.

HU: So best thing to do was put a snake into a sock.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) It's a snake in a sock.

HU: And the amazing thing is, once the snake's in the sock, it's terrible at moving. It can't move anywhere. You've seen those movies when these kidnappers catch you, and you have your hands and feet bound...

MILLER: Right.

HU: ...And you kind of, like, crawl towards the door.

MILLER: Yeah.

HU: It looks about as un-elegant as that.

MILLER: So you're at this moment, I'm just imagining, like, suddenly you've taken - with the sock - you've taken away the creepy from the snake. And so it's like - so is the answer, oh, the thing so many people are terrified the world over about in snakes is just anisotropic friction?

HU: (Laughter) No, no, no. What we found actually troubled us. Our computer snakes, our mathematical snakes, using these friction measurements that we measured, it was only moving half as fast as the real snake.

MILLER: Really?

HU: Yeah. So...

MILLER: Oh, so the snakes, the real snakes still had something special...

HU: Yeah.

MILLER: ...Making them go forward that you couldn't find yet?

HU: Yeah. In my field, I think a factor of 10 percent is considered maybe that's experimental error.

MILLER: Yeah.

HU: But a factor of 2 means that we're really missing something important.

MILLER: Yeah.

In other words, with all the fanciest instrumentation in the world, David Hu could not make this unknowable snake knowable.

HU: So we had to figure out what else the snake was doing.

MILLER: Can I - can I take 90 seconds to tell you my crazy theory before you tell me what the answer is?

HU: Definitely.

MILLER: OK.

HU: Go ahead.

(MUSIC)

MILLER: All right, Alix, so this music signals that we are going to leave the land of strict reporting and journey to the land of fact-based, wild speculation.

SPIEGEL: Your natural habitat.

MILLER: My natural place to be. The thing that I think could be accounting for the snake's mysterious speed is an invisible chemical out there - a real one - that influences how animals move.

David Hu, have you ever heard of schreckstoff?

HU: Schreckstoff?

MILLER: Mhmm.

HU: No. Is that German or something?

MILLER: It is German for scary stuff.

HU: OK.

MILLER: It was an idea first proposed in the 1930s by this scientist named Karl von Frisch when he noticed that when one minnow gets alarmed, minnows fairly far away from it will dart away. And he wondered, huh, could there be some sort of chemical fear passing between them?

HU: Schreckstoff.

MILLER: Today, scientists use a different name - alarm pheromones - and they've been shown to exist in all kinds of animals.

LILIANNE MUJICA-PARODI: Oh, there are so many, it's actually - it's really standard, so you see it certainly in insects. You see it in fish. You see it in mammals like rodents.

MILLER: This is Dr. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi, a neuroscientist at Stony Brook.

MUJICA-PARODI: Sheep and deer.

MILLER: All of these animals have been shown to either move faster or freeze or get more aggressive, all an automatic response to another animal's chemical fear.

OK, so you're seeing this, and you're thinking..

MUJICA-PARODI: Why not in humans?

MILLER: Do humans emit some sort of chemical fear that could change the humans around them?

MUJICA-PARODI: And that led to a whole series of experiments where, unfortunately, we had to make people afraid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

MUJICA-PARODI: And skydiving was the way to do that.

MILLER: She collected the sweat of very terrified people as they jumped out of an airplane for the first time ever. And then she took this fear sweat and wafted it into the noses of other people lying down in fMRIs...

MUJICA-PARODI: And what we saw is that the fear center of the brain lit up.

MILLER: And their cognitive abilities changed, too. She showed the fMRI people really fast images of faces.

MUJICA-PARODI: Then it turns out that the alarm pheromone increases the accuracy with which you're able to determine whether someone is aggressive or not.

MILLER: And by the way, none of these brain changes occurred when she instead wafted in harmless exercise sweat collected from those same skydivers.

MUJICA-PARODI: It activated in response to the fear sweat, but not the exercise sweat.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN CARPENTER SONG, "HALLOWEEN THEME")

MILLER: That is so spooky.

MUJICA-PARODI: It's profound.

MILLER: Your brain responds to disembodied particles of fear, meaning, you know when you get a kind of bad feelign about a person or a place?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Mommy, I want to go home.

MILLER: That could be real information you are detecting at the chemical level.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN CARPENTER SONG, "HALLOWEEN THEME")

MILLER: Which makes me sort of start to picture the world differently, as though there's this sort of mist of emotions waiting out there that can change you depending on where you happen to step.

MUJICA-PARODI: I think that is the part that bothers people. That makes people nervous about the whole concept of free will.

MILLER: So, Alix?

SPIEGEL: Yeah.

MILLER: Do you see how this is all about to account for the mysterious speed of the snake's slither?

SPIEGEL: No. Not even a little bit.

MILLER: No? Well, what have we learned? That there is a chemical component to fear that can change the way other creatures behave.

SPIEGEL: We did learn that.

MILLER: That happens in bugs and mice and likely between humans. And guess what?

SPIEGEL: What?

MILLER: It has recently been shown that it can also happen across species.

SPIEGEL: Damn.

MILLER: Yeah, see where this is going? So is it so wild to say that a whiff of human fear...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Oh, my God.

MILLER: ...Could be in some way detectable to a snake...

HU: Your heart starts beating faster when you're around snakes.

MILLER: ...And trigger some sort of automatic reaction like, say, a rush of calcium to the blood causing a contraction in muscle, that accounts for that missing last burst of speed? Yes, that is my wild speculation, that snakes are sailing around on currents of our fear.

I mean, do you think that is totally ludicrous?

MUJICA-PARODI: No, no, I don't.

MILLER: I actually went to four different scientists asking specifically if human fear could make a snake move faster, and they all said.

UNIDENTIFIED SCIENTIST #1: That's plausible.

UNIDENTIFIED SCIENTIST #2: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED SCIENTIST #3: Sure.

HU: That's really - that's really interesting, this interaction between the snake and the observer. I mean, it would be a terrible world if snakes would move faster the more afraid you were of them. (Laughter).

MILLER: Back to David Hu. Sorry that took more than 90 seconds. I sort of lost myself. But there he is with his camera poised over the snake. Maybe that's the missing 50 percent?

HU: We thought...

MILLER: Though Hu said he did briefly consider a chemical explanation, his thinking changed when he lowered his camera angle and started filming the snakes from right alongside them on the ground.

HU: You know, surprisingly, that's not something people had done. No one - very few people had, you know, lay on the floor and look at a snake while it's moving. And when you do that, you can see they actually - this idea that they keep their whole bodies on the ground is actually not true. You can actually see little cracks of light underneath the snake. It happens very quickly, but if you slow it down with a camera, you can see that...

MILLER: The curves lift into the air.

HU: ...They just lifted a couple millimeters, and that's enough to push the body forward.

MILLER: In other words, the snake, which for millennia has seemed so unknowable, if you look real close...

HU: It's like it's walking.

SPIEGEL: So is that it? Like...

MILLER: That's the punch line. Snakes are not in fact slithering; they are walking.

SPIEGEL: Walking, OK, so they're...

MILLER: Snakes are walking.

SPIEGEL: They're walking. All right, I got you.

MILLER: There's nothing mysterious.

SPIEGEL: I got you. I got you.

HU: The snakes are a lot more like us.

SPIEGEL: OK, so does that mean that you're cured?

MILLER: Oh, my [bleep] God. Oh.

SPIEGEL: To test, listeners, I have just brought in a python. And it's not in a cage either.

Come here. Come here.

So, listeners, remember how I said at the beginning that Lulu's fear was quite floridly expressed? I want you to conjure a look of sheer terror in a woman cowering on top of a table in the corner. Now make that woman sweat so profusely that you begin to wonder if what you are doing actually conforms to the guidelines laid out in NPR's reporting ethics handbook.

You're fine. You're fine.

MILLER: OK, Lulu from the future here, no longer frozen on her desk. Alix made me spend the whole day with that snake. She put it in a glass cage next to my computer. And every time it would slither, I would use my executive brain to think...

HU: It's like it's walking. It's like it's walking. It's like it's walking.

MILLER: And it didn't really help. Snakes still terrify me. As much as I know about them, knowledge hasn't helped.

SPIEGEL: So you think that you're defeated?

MILLER: Yeah. Though in the spirit of full disclosure, I do need to tell you that snake movement is not 100 percent solved.

SPIEGEL: It isn't?

MILLER: No. When David Hu put in those numbers that account for the weight distribution of the walking snake, he still came up 10 percent short.

HU: So there might be some room for this fear - what would you call it?

MILLER: Oh, Schreckstoff.

HU: Schreckstoff. I think that Schreckstoff might be there in the last 10 percent.

MILLER: (Laughter). So maybe the snake truly is unknowable. And that's permanently terrifying. But far more likely is that of all the wild things I have asked you to believe on this journey, the only truly ludicrous one is that humans could ever do away with their fear. Fear, I think, is as basic as blood. You can't take it out of the human.

ANDREW COLE: And if my girls are gone for five minutes, I start to, you know, think, OK somebody could be turning around at the end of the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: When I go out running, I make sure that there's no one following me over long distances.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I just - like I hope my children get to school fine. I'm scared for them every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: I'm very afraid of small places.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Traffic accidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: I have to just stand there telling myself that there is enough oxygen for everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #10: If somebody passes me, I have this - this is going to sound bizarre - I look over my should to make sure they aren't turning around coming at me to hit me on my head.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: I'm afraid of my kids getting hurt.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Cowardice, I think is our genetic destiny.

SPIEGEL: Lulu Miller.

MILLER: Yes?

SPIEGEL: You're a bummer - also in addition to being a bummer, you're wrong. And to prove it, I need to introduce you to our second test subject, Jason Comely.

Hi, Jason?

JASON COMELY: Yes.

SPIEGEL: I'm here with Lulu Miller.

MILLER: Hi.

COMELY: Hi, Lulu.

SPIEGEL: Jason's a freelance IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario, whose story starts one sad night several years ago.

COMELY: That Friday evening that I was in front of the computer in my, you know, one-bedroom apartment trying to be busy.

SPIEGEL: Jason was pretending to work. He fed his four cats.

COMELY: But really I knew that I was avoiding things.

SPIEGEL: See, nine months earlier, Jason's wife had left him.

COMELY: She found someone that was taller than I was, had more money than I had and was better-looking than I was. So, yeah, it was - yeah.

SPIEGEL: And since that time, Jason had found himself struggling, really struggling to be around people, particularly women.

COMELY: Yeah, I was extremely self-conscious, you know, just completely weird around people and like - almost out-of-body experience just trying to talk to somebody.

SPIEGEL: For instance, Jason told me and Lulu about this time at church when he saw this very attractive woman looking at him in an interested way.

COMELY: She was at the other end of the hallway. And the traffic is I'm moving towards her and she's moving towards me kind of thing, and I was just going to shake her hand and say hi or something.

SPIEGEL: But then it happened.

COMELY: This icy cold feeling. And it's kind of, like, gripping me as I start walking towards her.

SPIEGEL: And this was not your normal buzz-in-the-stomach type fear. This was a whole different animal of fear.

COMELY: All's I can think is, I have to get air, I have to get air.

SPIEGEL: So Jason, you know, sticks out his hand for a handshake.

COMELY: Well, my head felt, like, completely numb and cold, and I couldn't feel it.

SPIEGEL: But on he goes.

COMELY: And I'm walking toward her, my hand extended to shake her hand, and I walk right past her and right toward the door to get out.

SPIEGEL: (Laughter).

Sadly, this was not an isolated experience.

COMELY: I have hundreds of those kinds of stories.

SPIEGEL: Which is why, to go back, Jason was at home alone that Friday night with no one but his four cats for company.

COMELY: Realizing that I had nowhere to go and no one to hang out with. And so I just broke down and started crying. It was just something that made me realize that I'm afraid and then I just - I asked myself, afraid of what? And - yeah, I remember it now. I just remember - sorry, just a second.

SPIEGEL: No, no, no, it's OK.

He says that sitting there, it just suddenly hit him why he was so afraid.

COMELY: It was rejection. I thought, I'm afraid of rejection.

SPIEGEL: This realization was actually news to Jason. He had never thought of himself as a fearful person.

COMELY: And the thing was I didn't know how to get out. I didn't know how to get out of this fear. And so this is going to sound a little bit weird, but when I realized that it was rejection, I thought - I was kind of thinking about the Spetsnaz.

SPIEGEL: The who?

COMELY: Do you know about the...

SPIEGEL: No.

COMELY: ...The Spetsnaz?

SPIEGEL: No.

The Spetsnaz apparently are this elite Russian military unit.

COMELY: They're sort of like Navy SEALs, but Russian.

SPIEGEL: And like Navy SEALs, they have this really, really intense training regime.

COMELY: You know, I heard of one situation where they were locked in a room - a windowless room - with a very angry dog. And they'd only be armed with a spade. And only one person's going to get out, either the dog or the Spetsnaz.

SPIEGEL: So there's Jason thinking about the Spetsnaz, and he's thinking about his own situation.

COMELY: I don't know. Maybe it was like, oh, Spetsnaz wouldn't be scared of rejection.

SPIEGEL: And then it hits him. He should use their approach to fight his own fear.

COMELY: Apply their training methodology to this situation.

SPIEGEL: So if you're a freelance IT guy living in a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, Ontario, what is the modern equivalent of being trapped in a windowless room with a rabid dog and nothing to protect you but a single, handheld spade?

COMELY: I had to get rejected at least once every single day by someone.

SPIEGEL: And so begins Jason's experiment with what he comes to call rejection therapy. It starts small in the parking lot of his local grocery store.

COMELY: And I asked someone who was cleaning their windshield if I could get a ride with them to Preston.

SPIEGEL: Preston is a town about 20 minutes away.

COMELY: And he looked at me, like, and just said, I'm not going that way, buddy.

(LAUGHTER)

COMELY: You know, just like - and I was like, thank you.

SPIEGEL: And in that moment...

COMELY: It was, like, got it. I got my rejection.

SPIEGEL: It felt great.

COMELY: There was something incredibly liberating about it. And just - I felt like anything was possible now.

SPIEGEL: Because in that moment, Jason totally inverts the rules of life. He takes rejection, and he makes it something that he wants, something he actively seeks so that he feels good when he gets it.

COMELY: You know, it's sort of like walking on my hands or living underwater or something. It's just, like, a different reality.

SPIEGEL: So off he sets, goes to the local Wal-Mart with a stack of pass-along-cards from his church, walks up to this very, very nice-looking woman and offers her one.

COMELY: And she looked me squarely in the eye and sort of spoke very slowly and articulately so that I would completely understand, you know, and she just went, no.

(LAUGHTER)

SPIEGEL: Over the next couple of months, Jason does this game he's invented, this rejection therapy, pretty much every day. So every morning he comes up with a plan, a plan for how he will get rejected that day.

COMELY: Ask a friend to drive you out of town and back.

SPIEGEL: And when they said...

COMELY: No.

SPIEGEL: He just said...

COMELY: Thank you.

SPIEGEL: He asked all kinds of people all kinds of things that he had never asked before.

COMELY: Request lunch with a Facebook friend you've never met in person before.

SPIEGEL: And they'd say...

COMELY: No.

SPIEGEL: But he'd still say...

COMELY: Thank you.

No.

Thank you.

No.

Thank you.

SPIEGEL: And slowly Jason began to feel more at ease around people. So he starts, you know, telling them about this little game that he's invented. And every time he does that, he gets a really positive response.

COMELY: The response is really great. Like, well, this is brilliant. It was just, like, whoa.

SPIEGEL: And then one day it occurred him he should turn rejection therapy into something more official.

OK. Can you just read through your cards?

COMELY: OK. So ask for a ride from a stranger, even if you don't need one.

SPIEGEL: So he took his real-life rejection attempts...

COMELY: Ask a friend to do your laundry.

SPIEGEL: ...Had them printed up...

COMELY: Ask to cut in front of a queue.

SPIEGEL: ...On a deck of cards...

COMELY: Offer a stranger your food. Ask for a stranger's email address. Knock on a neighbor's door, request something.

SPIEGEL: ...And he began to sell these cards online. And slowly rejection therapy, it became a kind of small, cult phenomenon.

MATT RAMIS: Hi, sir. Do you have any chewing gum by chance? No? All right.

SPIEGEL: Today all kinds of people play Jason's rejection therapy, like this guy, a student in California named Matt Ramis.

RAMIS: Excuse me, do you guys have chewing gum by any chance? No, all right. It's all right.

SPIEGEL: Or this guy, Joey Chandler, from San Francisco.

JOEY CHANDLER: You want to come play golf with us?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #11: When?

CHANDLER: Tomorrow night. It's a fundraiser for the Sun Valley School.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #11: I would love to. I don't know if I can.

SPIEGEL: Jason knows a teacher in Colorado, a massage therapist in Budapest, a computer programmer in Japan - all of them using rejection therapy to overcome their everyday fears. He even has a letter from a widowed Russian grandmother. She was using rejection therapy to meet men.

COMELY: It was really cool. So there's an 80-year-old babushka playing rejection therapy.

MILLER: So this is Lulu again. I've been sitting here wondering, OK, so what's the ending to our story here? Like, did you invent the game and play it and you landed a sweetie?

COMELY: No, no, no nothing like that.

SPIEGEL: Jason doesn't really have a Hollywood ending to his story. It didn't lead him to the girl of his dreams. In fact he now has six cats instead of four, but what he has gotten is less fear - a life with less fear, in part because rejection therapy taught him that even for a socially awkward IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario, there just aren't as many no's out there as you might think.

COMELY: It was harder to get rejected than I thought. And that was really amazing for me, that people were actually saying yes. I had asked for a discount at a store, and they'd go, well, yeah, OK. I'll sell it to you for this. And I was just like - what? - really?

SPIEGEL: Fear, he's concluded, comes mostly from the stories that we tell ourselves.

COMELY: We're always, always, always telling stories to ourselves about the situation we're in and about other people. And that story becomes a reality for us. And that's the problem.

SPIEGEL: And we don't need these stories, he believes, not half as much as we think we do.

COMELY: Don't even bother trying to be cool. Just get out there and get rejected, and sometimes it's going to get dirty. But that's OK because you're going to feel great after. You're going to feel like, wow, I disobeyed my fear. I disobeyed fear.

(MUSIC)

COMELY: Offer to pay for someone's order. Before purchasing something, ask for a discount. Make yourself look radically different today. Say hello to three people at the grocery store. Request an in-person visit with a local personality. Ask a stranger for a breath mint. Get someone's opinion on a recent news investment. Smile at every person you walk past today.

(MUSIC)

MILLER: INVISIBILIA is me, Lulu Miller.

SPIEGEL: And me, Alix Spiegel. Our senior editor is Anne Gudenkauf

MILLER: With help from Eric Newsom (ph).

SPIEGEL: Portia Robertson Migas.

MILLER: Brenden Baker.

SPIEGEL: Brent Bachman (ph), Hanna Rosin, Matt Martinez, Natalie Kaseka (ph). And now to reveal the secret formula to overcome all fear, I give you Lulu Miller.

MILLER: Jason Comely's fool-proof formula is Fear = Thinking + Time. Take either one of those things away, thinking or time, you cannot get fear.

SPIEGEL: You're welcome.

MILLER: And now.

SPIEGEL: For a moment of nonsense.

Do you know what was on my to-do list today?

Get challah, get python.

(LAUGHTER)

SPIEGEL: Seriously.

Join us next week for more INVISIBILIA.

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