Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the Unknown

What is the fear of the Unknown and why do we fear it? 

We tend to avoid the Unknown at all costs and as a result, we steer clear of change. We do this at the cost of our happiness and risk denying ourselves our innermost piercing desires. 

We set up strategies and stories to keep us where we are now because we think where we are now is safe and comfortable, even though we know that growth happens when we step outside of our comfort zones. 

Why do we consider anything “different” to be Unknown and therefore scary? 

We run and hide from it (physically and metaphorically) like scared little children pretending to run from a monster but is the Unknown merely something we only perceive as fearful? What is something different if not merely something we cannot yet imagine? 

Throughout life, we tend to fear the darkest, quietest moments. During amusement rides or movies, we cringe when things get quiet and we are about to turn a dark corner. We are programmed to anticipate that something will jump out at us and “something bad will happen.” 

What we fail to remember is that once this happens, don’t we always turn out okay in the end? The monster doesn’t hurt you and after turning the scary corner, you turn up unscathed. 

If you always land back on your feet after the rug is pulled out from under you, why is it that we still deny ourselves a venture into the Unknown? 

What is it about the Unknown that we truly fear? 

Could it be that we are having a trained response? Something we have been conditioned to have or is it an instinct we possess or a mix of both perhaps?  

We admire those who venture out into the Unknown and we revere them when they return victorious. We admire change makers and those who go against the grain, yet we ourselves allow fear to dictate our choices and keep us from moving forward, all the while knowing that change is the only constant. 

Why do we resist change so much if it is something that is happening all the time? 

Haven’t you noticed that once you begin resisting change and resisting going into the unknown, expressions of the very thing you are avoiding begin showing up in your life? Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who founded analytic psychology said, “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”  

Once you are in this state of resisting change, in conversations you’ll begin noticing for example people sharing stories about changes they are making in their own lives and you begin seeing inspirational quotes about adventure and exploration popping up in your news feed. Perhaps all subtle ways your higher-self is nudging at you to take the plunge.  

Researchers have found that our brains prefer predictable negative consequences to uncertain outcomes. Meaning, for example, your brain would rather stay in a dead-end job than go through the unpredictability of quitting your job and starting a new career even if it means the new career choice will make you the happiest you’ve ever been. 

Your soul is a different story though; it knows what you are capable of achieving and knows how many possibilities are available to you on the other side of fear or the Unknown. 

What if we changed our perspective and instead of calling it the Unknown, we referred to it as “not yet discovered?” With this new perspective, the Unknown is more of a surprise or a gift to anticipate vs something to fear. 

Experts say that there is very little physiological difference between the emotions of excitement and fear. When we choose this, the fear begins to dissipate and take on an entirely new persona. With this new perspective, the undiscovered suddenly begins to feel exciting and fun. 

Imagine if you approached it as if you were visiting a new town in a different city where you look forward to discovering new adventures and customs every step of the way? What if you lived your entire life this way? 

Some say that conquering fear is the beginning of wisdom. Why do we continue denying ourselves the freedom of discovering that wisdom?  

I think what they are saying is that the uncomfortable yet oh so familiar feeling of playing it “safe” also keeps us from making invaluable mistakes, which gift us the experiences we need to live fulfilling lives. 

This begs the question, do we prefer to live a life null of experience and caged in by the fear we are perceiving in our heads?  

Making mistakes is how we learn and in today’s “fail fast” culture, we are fostering this idea in our universities and companies more and more. We are beginning to realize that no growth happens without making the necessary mistakes that teach us how to improve. 

Historically, taking the wrong direction in your career or losing it all together was considered catastrophic and one was often outcast in their communities because coming out of the Great Depression it was seen as irresponsible to be frivolous with one’s career. 

Something that was once frowned upon is now strongly celebrated as the way to figure out ones true purpose in life. Yet, we still rather celebrate risk taking when other people do it, and don’t pursue the unknown in our own lives. 

Even those of us who embrace change and move forward despite our fears, find it uncertain and risky as well but the difference is that we know that without these experiences,  we will never figure out who we are. As exhilarating as the after effects of overcoming the unknown may be, the fear never goes away for us but it is the attempting that makes life great and this “attempting” is what others truly admire. 

Reaching for our desires even if we knew we may fail is what led us to walk when we were babies or to learn to ride a bike as kids. It’s what made us ask for a better wage or move to a new city to create a better life. 

So in reality, the difference between those of us who accomplish something daring vs those of us who do not, is that those who accomplished it did it despite their fear. Even though they might have been afraid, they just went for it and figured it out along the way, because they knew that when the rug got pulled out from under them, that they would know how to land on their feet.  

The fear is always going to be there. The question is what will you do despite it?

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves; an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily hidden, temporarily.

 

 

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