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 from change. We do this at the cost of our happiness and risk denying ourselves our inner most 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 you step outside of your comfort zones.

Why do we consider anything different to be Unknown and therefore scary? We run and hide from it like scared little children pretending to run from a monster. But is the Unknown merely something that we perceive as different? And what is something different if not merely something we cannot yet imagine?

Through life, we to fear the darkest, quietest moments for example, during amusement rides or movies, we cringe when we turn a dark corner anticipating that something will jump out at us. What we fail to see is once that happens we always turn out okay. The monster doesn’t hurt you and after turning the scary corner, you turn up unscathed. You land back on your feet after the rug is pulled from under you, so why do we still deny ourselves a venture into the Unknown? What is it about it that we truly fear?

It leads me to wonder, is this a trained response that we have been conditioned to have, an innate instinct we possess or is it a little bit of both perhaps?  Not only through history but in everyday life, 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 grind, yet we ourselves allow fear to dictate our choices, all the while knowing that change is the only constant. Why do we resist change so much?

Haven’t you noticed that once you begin resisting change and resisting going into the unknown, expressions of it start showing up in your life? Remember, Carl Jung said, “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”  In conversations you start noticing people sharing stories about changes they are making and you begin seeing inspirational quotes about adventure and exploration popping up in your feeds. Perhaps these are all subtle ways your higher-self is telling you to take the plunge? 

Researchers have found that our brains prefer predictable negative consequences to uncertain outcomes. Meaning, for example, that your brain would rather you stay in a dead-end job than go through the unpredictability of quitting your job and starting a new career.

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 and of the Unknown. Instead of calling it the Unknown, could it not be considered the Undiscovered instead? Could it not be a surprise or a gift to anticipate? When we look at it this way, the fear begins to dissipate and take on an entirely new persona. The undiscovered suddenly feels exciting and fun. It is the same anticipation one has when going on vacation to a new place. Even though you are not aware of local customs or of what to expect, you look forward to discovering the new adventure.

They say that conquering fear is the beginning of wisdom, therefore why do we allow ourselves to be caged in by it rather than explore it?  The uncomfortable yet oh so familiar feeling of playing it “Safe” also keeps us from making invaluable mistakes, which we know is where experience comes from. This begs the question, why would we prefer to live a life null of experience?  

Making mistakes is how we learn.. In today’s “fail fast” culture, we are fostering this idea in our schools and places of work. We are realizing 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, yet something that was once frowned upon is now strongly celebrated. Yet, we celebrate risk taking when other people do it, but we don’t in our own lives.

Even those of us who embrace change find it uncertain and risky we know that it is these life experiences that shape us and make us who we are. Although as exhilarating as the after effects may be, the fear never really goes away for us but it is in the attempting that makes life great. Reaching for our truest dreams and desires even if we may fail is what taught us how to walk when we were babies or how to ride a bike as kids. The difference between those of us who accomplish something daring and those of us who do not, is that those who accomplished it did it despite of their fear. They just went for it and figured it out along the way, because they know that when the rug gets pulled out from under them, they will always land on their feet.  

“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 not understood.” - Captain Kirk, Star Trek