How can what we not know scare us so much? As human beings, we tend to fear what we don’t know. This is known as the fear of the unknown. It is an instinctual response that is actually a survival mechanism. While this fear can be a helpful tool and some people thrive in uncertainty, others can be limited and paralysed by the unknown.
What causes the fear of the unknown?
The fear of the unknown is caused by a variety of factors such as past experiences, cultural conditioning, and societal expectations. When we encounter something that is unfamiliar to us, our brains immediately go into overdrive, trying to make sense of the situation. We may experience anxiety, apprehension, or even panic, as we struggle to understand and adapt to something new or different.
What type of individuals are more likely to experience fear of the unknown ?
Although anyone can develop fear of the unknown, individuals who are more risk-averse, introverted, or have experienced trauma or abuse in the past are more likely to experience this fear. People who have a lot of worry or who struggle with depression, anxiety and fear disorders may also be more prone compared to peers that do not. Additionally, those who have a strong need for control and certainty in their lives may be more likely to experience fear when it comes to the unknown or the unpredictable.
How to overcome the fear of the unknown ?
Uncertainty will always be part of the human experience. But it becomes a problem when fearing what is unknown impedes one’s day to day or ability to meet milestones and achieve personal growth. There are several strategies that can help us navigate unfamiliar situations and overcome our fears.
- Instead of avoidance, do some research. Reduce your fear of the unknown by increasing what you know or what you can find out. By doing some research, the unknown could potentially become a little more predictable. This allows for you to reclaim some control back and feel empowered to tackle uncertainty instead of avoiding it.
- Gradually expose yourself to new experiences. We can start with small steps and work our way up to more significant challenges. This approach allows us to build our confidence and become more comfortable with the unknown or the unpredictable.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. By focusing on the present moment and letting go of our worries and fears, we can reduce our anxiety and feel more grounded and centred to what we do know in our current experiences.
- Reframe your thinking. Instead of seeing the unknown as something to fear, we can reframe it as an opportunity for growth and learning. By changing our perspective, we can shift our focus away from the potential risks and toward embracing change.
Working toward challenging fear of the unknown takes practice, consistency, and constant adjustment of strategies to find what works best for you and your situation. Progress and growth will look different for each person, so be sure to recognise and celebrate your wins along the way. Remember, the unknown may feel scary, but it also holds the potential for great transformation, discovery, and adventure.