You Could Lose It All

Three weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed our new son, Max, into the world.  Now that mommy and baby are both home, healthy and happy, I can admit something that I didn’t tell my wife during the delivery . . . I was terrified.

While I was excited to meet my new son, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that could go wrong.  We had a complicated delivery with our first son, and we already knew this one would be somewhat challenging as well (our son weighed over 10 lbs at birth!)

I can’t think of anything scarier than having my wife and child, two people I love more than anything in the world, in the hands of our health care system.  Don’t get me wrong, the staff in the hospital were all amazingly wonderful.  But it is terrifying when powerful drugs are being administered, risks are being explained, and decisions are being made.  I want to trust in the medical professionals that are caring for my wife and son, but I can never be sure what decisions are being made for the good of the patient versus the efficiency and financial interests of the hospital.  This is the problem with our capitalist society.

In retrospect, everything worked out great.  Our baby is beautiful, my wife is healthy, and all of us couldn’t be happier.  But during the delivery, and in the hours leading up to it, I couldn’t help thinking of danger . . . lives were at risk . . . we could lose it all.

This is the downside of having great things happen in your life.  The more you have, the more you have to lose.  And life is unpredictable . . . so anything that you hold dear: your family, your loved ones, your home, your car, your wealth, your career . . . it could be ripped away at any time.

According to psychologists (Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky,) humans naturally seek to avoid losses.  The utility curve is steeper for losses than for gains, meaning that we value avoiding losses more than we value acquiring gains.  We have much to fear.

This could be one of the reasons for the Easterlin paradox: the theory that growing wealth does not seem to increase happiness (this is controversial . . . see my article on it here.)  Increasing wealth means we have more potential losses to worry about and this offsets any boost to wellbeing that we get from the gains.

Luckily, in the case of childbearing, Mother Nature has ways of making sure we aren’t discouraged by these possible risks.  So we don’t think about this at all when we’re actually making the baby.  These fears surface later when you realize you are expecting, or later still when you are watching your wife writhe in agony in the delivery room.

But it is hard to imagine accomplishing anything great in life without being able to move forward in the face of risk.  Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  You have to be willing to confront your fears to bask in the greatest rewards (as I am basking now with my darling son.)

It seems to me there are three healthy psychological strategies that we can take when confronting fear of loss:

1. Play it safe.  We exercise our loss aversion and take the safe road.  This strategy protects us from losses but jeopardizes our potential to live a life that is remarkable (see “safe is risky” at 14:19 in this great video from Seth Godin, who preaches the importance of taking risks to be successful.) Because of our aversion to loss, we have a good chance to overreact to fear, allowing it to prevent us from acting, even when action would be in our best interest.

2. Practice realistic optimism.  “Reality can be fuzzy,” says psychologist Sandra Schneider.  And perceived risk is often exactly that, a figment of our perceptions.  Realistic optimism means assessing concretely the reality of the situation and focusing on the positive possibilities from among the possible interpretations of the situation.  This helps us to maintain a realistic approach while not being derailed by our tendency to focus on the “worst case scenario.”

3. The glass is already broken.  Buddhist philosophy teaches a deep acceptance of human frailty.  We, and everyone we know will get sick, get old, and some day die.  By accepting this impermanence of life, we are able to appreciate more the moments we have, and rebound faster from losses that occur.  “The glass is already broken” is a Buddhist meditation on this principle.  It’s not about the glass being half full or half empty.  When we recognize that we are experiencing a precious moment of unbrokenness of the glass, we can cherish the moment, knowing that it is fleeting.

For us, the fear has passed (at least for the moment,) and we are cherishing the unbrokenness of our beautiful family (see photo of Mommy, Dylan and Max!)

How do you handle fear and risk?

, ,

20 Responses to You Could Lose It All

  1. Mark A McKenney @MarktheSpaMan January 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    First off congratulations on the birth of your son! May you and your family be blessed with health and yes wellbeing!

    Jeremy you always write articles that are apropos of events in my life in the last three years even though you are writing about yours. Just today on the way to work the ‘check engine’ light came on and I panicked because I know my car is needing major work and just recently started a new job after working for many months at jobs that did not pay well (plus unemployment for such a long time). I read my manual and my car and I will definitely will be okay. To put it simply the fear that has permeated many of us during the recession will not break us: I am okay at this moment, I am not in any danger, I breath deeply, say my mantras and think better thoughts. I will soon get back to the gym for my cardio and yoga. I am about to take courses like you have recommended in your articles and I like seeing a hypnotherapist. There are solutions and help from others; just ask!

    Yes, we could lose it all but with people like you, family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to remind us, we would rather not. We will gain it all!

    Best wishes for your continued success both personal and professional!

    Mark A McKenney
    Dallas, Texas USA

  2. Marie-Josee Shaar January 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Yeah, the health care system terrifies me too – especially knowing how sleep deprivation impairs our judgment and how sleep deprived most doctors are – really scary! All the more need for spas so we can do more preventative maintenance, thus freeing time for our good doctors to sleep a full night – wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, fast food chains, soda companies and TV channels have different plans for our health and therefore, our health care system… So for now, I handle this fear with as much prevention as I possibly can (I guess it’s a form of avoidance), but am not sure how I’ll handle the inevitable when Rob and I are expecting. 😉

  3. charlie wills February 2, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Children are a True Blessing

    Maria said “All the more need for spas so we can do more preventative maintenance”

    I think you have the carrige before the Horse…We should be askng where are all the Spa Directors going to come from that understand what a preventve spa will have to do and how to deal with those Fragil clients..

    Avoidance is exactly the probem, we do not want to have to deal with those problems, so we don’t reach the masses and they stay ot of the Spa because no one goes to a Old School spa to learn how to go back to sleep afte taking Sleep meds for years…

    Just like Blood pressure meds,,,no one goes to the spa to learn how to be free of them…

    But why not? The Spa should be where they go…

  4. Marie-Josee Shaar February 2, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Well, my first thought with preventative maintenance is to help people before they even get on meds. But all is not lost once they are on drugs – why wouldn’t they go to a spa to stop using them? Meds are costly, and they often come with undesirable side effects. If spas offer and promote effective programs, I’m sure enough people will consider them. Not everyone, I agree, but however much progress we make will be a good thing.

    As far as helping spa directors understand what a preventative spa can do, I think that a lot are already there. It’s not understanding that’s lacking, but methods to move forward. And for those who aren’t quite there yet, well, I think it’s our job to keep the conversation going and see if they can’t join us in the movement.

    Very best,

  5. charlie wills February 2, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Thank You for replying

    If we were to prevent them from first taking them in the first place you would need to supersede their Doctor,,,not going to happen.

    What can your Spa do today to help some stop takin Ambien or Prozac? What is a effective program a spa that is not a medical spa can offer today?

    There might be a few Directors, but again what can they offer that works?

    Where are the video testimonials ?

    I am with you, but what you and I are talking about ? I see ery little if any proof out here..

  6. Marie-Josee Shaar February 2, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I don’t think we need to supersede the doctor. If effective programs were promoted in spas, then someone who realizes they can’t sleep could think of 2 options: lifestyle changes through spas (longer but healthier) or through meds (faster, more expensive, doesn’t solve the root cause and brings undesirable side effects). They’d at least have the option!

    What can a spa do to help clients get off their meds? I helped a client get off Lexapro in 6 sessions. I did tell her I wasn’t a doctor and that I had never done it before, etc. It worked beautifully. Of course my program isn’t backed by research (I only have anecdotal evidence), and more cases would need to be studied, but we here have a beginning of something that may have potential. Similar programs could be offered through spas. I think people would welcome an offer like that, and coming from a spa would give it more credibility because spas are healing institutions.

    So I agree that we’re not there, but at least can we sat that we see the road that needs to be paved?

    PS: Great debate, BTW! All points worth thinking about!

  7. charlie wills February 2, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I helped a client get off Lexapro in 6 sessions,,,,FANTASTIC MJ

    What did you do, how long were the sessions, and what was the time frame of the treatments, and the cost?

    Have you followed up? is there a charge foryour follow up

    Where did you formulate you approach from?


  8. Marie-Josee Shaar February 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Thank you, Charlie!

    The sessions were an hour each – and I made them “walk and talk” style – with email support in between (and a little phone too, actually). I did not charge for this service as I really was just testing waters with it, and didn’t want to charge for something if I wasn’t sure would be effective. Note that I had worked with this person before. The outline was based on my previous knowledge/work, and a little extra research. But it wasn’t earth-shattering. I looked at all the natural ways to produce serotonin, and built a program from there.

    It worked beautifully, but I decided it was too big of a battle for me to fight alone – I could already see doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals get all scandalized that someone who isn’t a doctor and can’t prescribe meds would “dare to play in their field” like that. So I didn’t pursue it any further, except that I gave a doctor my outline once, and she thought it was real interesting.

    I’d be real curious to see more in-depth research on it, though. I’d really like for it to be a safe and effective alternative. And you can already see my big bias here, so I wouldn’t be a good objective researcher myself! 😉

    Last I heard of the client was 18 months post-intervention. It was a brief conversation in which she said she was still doing just fine without the meds.


  9. charles wills February 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    I could already see doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals get all scandalized that someone who isn’t a doctor and can’t prescribe meds would “dare to play in their field” like that. So I didn’t pursue it any further, except that I gave a doctor my outline once, and she thought it was real interesting.

    What you said above Opens the Whole can of Worms with a preventve Spa don’t you think?

    The saddest part i that in 99% of hotels the GM’s will never put up with any complaints at all,,,and that those complaints are coming from Drug induced clients/guests…

    So the spa hotel Industry for the New Preventive spa will always be the same maybe so type treatmeants that can cause no problems for the GM’s due to their own Ignorance to what is really happening simply because they do not care about anything that in Their Own Words “Not Part of the Hotel” but at a Westin that is suppose to be Welless it is…but not to the GM whose says ” I prefer my Mdications to spa treatments” hahahhahahahahah

    Jeremy is in a extremly awkward situation with this,,,and that is why the New Spa might never be more then what it is today with new science backing what they do now, But Never really anything Preventive unless we get the clients Very Young and with Deep Pockets…

  10. Jeremy McCarthy (@jeremymcc) February 3, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    This is a good discussion on the possibilties of spa but I think we should also recognize what spas do today. Spas provide a place where people can experience silence, slowness, time for themsleves, freedom from technology, and touch from a nurturing and listening healer. I think it is more important that our health care system learn these skills from the spa world than that the spas try to learn how to be more medical.

  11. Marie-Josee Shaar February 3, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    I agree with you, Jeremy, and I actually don’t think spas need to change. I think they are doing great as is, and people appreciate what they currently do. Rather, I think that there is a need for the kind of service that I’m describing above, and that giving these services a home other than individual coach offices would be helpful. Spas could be a natural fit for them because they have the facilities to support a lot of the habits (fitness room, relaxation room, etc). And people enjoy going to the spa, so that’s a big plus in terms of getting them in, and in terms of making sure they are open to the experience. Medical cabinets could be another good fit – although not quite as good for the reasons just explained (no facilities, not as pleasant of an environment, etc).

    Now back to Charlie’s comment about GMs not wanting anything that can cause complaints – well, isn’t that a pervasive problem today, in many industries? Lots of businesses make decisions based on what it will do to their yearly or quarterly returns, ignoring what it might do in the long run. That’s another shift in mentality we need to make! But in the meantime, I suggest we start working with owner-operated locations, see how it goes, make our proofs and go from there.

  12. charles wills February 3, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks Jeremy and MJ..

    As far as I can read I never spoke of a New Preventive Spa becoming more Medical,,,that field has way to many problems and Lies to deal with aready,,just like the FDA approving Aspartame (poison)..

    We can help so many Medical Losers get their Happiness back, Love and passion is what I am speaking about with the New Spa, only so many GM’s Block this from happening..

    Myself and my team have helped many, many Medical Losers become free from Medications that cause great damage to themselves…and Change back to their grat self without being Medical at all…

    MJ said “I suggest we start working with owner-operated locations, see how it goes, make our proofs and go from there.”

    You are soooo Right MJ…the New Preventive Spa can not make it in a Hotel unless that very Rare Spa Director makes it a Personall Mission!!! Because of the GM’s Old School Greed!!

    Jeremy you have a very difficult Job if you choose to help make a dfference for those 6 out of 10 medical losers we have everywhere…in a Hotel setting,,,but that’s why your here Right, to make a differece? and help the battle we all face as Humanitarians!!!!!!!!

    Yes MJ looks like the “owner-operators” are it and the Hotel Peventive Spa loses to Corporate GREED!…sad…as many people only might visit a spa on vacation…for the first tme in their Life..

    I wonder how many others here agree but not willing to publicly put their head in this noose?

  13. Jeremy McCarthy February 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks Charles, I like your concept of “Medical Losers”, have you written about this anywhere or seen any articles on it? You have a unique approach thinking about how spas can address this group. I think more in terms of how we can cater to healthy people before they need to enter our horrible medical systems. How do you quantify the medical losers? Any research on this? Thanks, J

  14. Mark A McKenney @MarktheSpaMan February 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Geez I must have totally misread the article. The comments are totally different than mine and very interesting!

  15. Jeremy McCarthy February 4, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Don’t feel bad Mark. Somehow this discussion has wandered pretty far afield of what this article was about. But it is interesting nonetheless! Thanks!

  16. charles wills February 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm #


    Earlier here I wrote “What can your Spa do today to help some stop taking Ambien or Prozac? What is a effective program a spa that is not a medical spa can offer today?”

    Jeremy said “I think more in terms of how we can cater to healthy people before they need to enter our horrible medical systems.” While I agree 100% with you my friend I have chosen to take the more difficult road and help the oher end of Humanity, the Medical Losers.

    The average Hotel Spa in the Cancun area sees about 26% or so of Hotel guests and about 7% come back more than once (Quotes from Spa Directors at Ritz Carlton, Westin, Agua, and Le Blanc).

    These Medical Losers seldom, if ever, visit the Spa, based on our own findings from the Q & A part of our inteview with clients.

    What is a Medical Loser? Medical meaning “Of or relating to the study or practice of medicine.
    2. Requiring treatment by medicine.”

    a. One that fails to win: the losers of the game.
    b. One who takes loss in a specified way: a graceful loser; a poor loser.
    a. One that fails consistently, especially a person with bad luck or poor skills:
    b. One that is bad in quality:

    The Phrase Medical Loser is pretty self explanitory, I hav been using it over a year now and it fits perfecly. People that are Losers due to the Medical System…Example: Doctor I have trouble sleeping, okay Iwill give you AMBIEN to get you to sleep.

    Adverse effects
    Side-effects at any dose may include: Stops all production of HGH, one of are fountains of youth.

    Anterograde amnesia
    Hallucinations, through all physical senses, of varying intensity
    Altered thought patterns
    Ataxia or poor motor coordination, difficulty maintaining balance[17]
    Euphoria and/or dysphoria
    Increased appetite
    Increased or decreased libido
    Impaired judgment and reasoning
    Uninhibited extroversion in social or interpersonal settings
    Increased impulsivity
    When stopped, rebound insomnia may occur
    Short term memory loss
    THE LIST IS MUCH LONGER,you get the idea!

    I dont want to appear like Im beating up doctors, a lot of my friends are Medical Doctors (fortunately, most of them are new school). I undersand the System is not working right and they are trained for illness, not for wellness. They dont take the time later to stay updated… too many ill people plus their personal life.

    Below is just one of Hundreds of Video and written testimonials from ML’s (Medical Losers) we have worked with or I should say brought into the NEW SPA PREVENTIVE WORLD..

    Linda wrote “Personally, I practically crawled into the Sleep Seminar. My husband didn’t bring his C-PAP machine. (NEGLECTED to bring his machine. But I’ll be kind…) After 4 nights of sleeping in the same room with the snoring polar bear, I was snore-tured and frazzled. We both booked personal sessions with Charlie which will benefit us Forever. My husband has Parkinson’s Disease and he has received the ability to relax his arm for a period during each day. Yes. Pretty darn amazing..( The husband has been kind enough to offer his phone number so any others may recieve the same help)

    We have continued to work with this couple since Thanksgiving 2011, How easy in that state of mind would it have been for her to LOSE it? and go LOSE it at the front desk because myself or my team said somethng that just SPARKED the FUSE???

    Then the GM woud have come hunting us down to DEMAND answers….LOL sad but TRUE as we were asked after 13 great Tripadvisor posts in 2 months and helping about 80 others that refused to be Medical Losers to leave the property because of a very few others in the EXACT same mind frame (taking ambien, anti-depresents, beta blockers , xanax or valuim, etc.) that needed someone to Blame or could not control their anger any more did lose it.

    Really funny/sad was that we have a Oxford University mastered medical Doctor that quit the Hospital because of her refusal to create more ML’s and teach yoga was also asked to leave that same hotel….How Ignorant can One person be? remember he tod me personally he prefers his drugs to our help.. Yet another a position of power.

    Jeremy, hopefully one day soon you can help put this program in a great place, as it i now we are Blessed to be working still with what my Team describes as A True Spa Director of The New Evolution of Spa, the only down side is the average rate at this hotel is $99 a night in ih season and almost empty 7 moths a year,,so it migh be as M.J. said.


  17. charles wills February 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I replied with a very detailed post,,,unfortunately after clicking submit it never posted..

  18. Jeremy McCarthy February 6, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Thanks for letting me know Charles, sometimes the spam filter inadvertently weeds out an authentic message. I’m reposting your comment for you!


  1. You're Not As Smart As You Think You Are | The Psychology of Wellbeing - July 17, 2012

    […] is also “base-rate neglect”, the “representative heuristic”, “illusion of validity”, “loss aversion” and I could go on and on with all of the mental shortcuts that Kahneman has found, which […]

  2. After Tragedy, Love not Fear: Reflections on the Newtown Tragedy | The Psychology of Wellbeing - January 26, 2013

    […] Luckily, these things won’t happen often.  But they will happen.  And maybe the best that we can do is to cherish what we have with the knowledge that life is fragile and at any moment we “could lose it all.” […]

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes