Fear of Unknown

How to overcome Fear of the Unknown?

Fear of the unknown is humanity’s greatest psychological weakness.  It is one one of the anxiety and a fundamental fear found in all the human beings. Yesterday my 3 years old niece saw an elephant first time in her life. She got very scared; as she had never seen before such kind of giant animal in her life. This reminded me that unknown or uncertainty creates fear not only in children even in adults in day to day life. The fear of unknown is basically an irrational sensation of fear experienced about someone or a group of persons as well as situations or conditions; which are perceived as strange or foreign.

Fear of the unknown (FOTU) becomes harmful for life when this anxiety gets converted in to a phobia, in psychology this is known as Xenophobia. In modern usage, the word has evolved to mean the fear of strangers or foreigners — but its original meaning is much broader. It includes anything or anyone that’s unfamiliar or unknown. In this post we will try to understand the fear of the unknown, it’s causes, symptoms and ways to deal with fear of unknown.

Fear of the unknown
Unknown or Uncertainty creates fear of the unknown

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”  ~ H.P. Lovecraft

What Is the Fear of the Unknown?

The fear of the unknown can be a little hard to describe because all the feelings and thoughts around this fear are right there in your head. If you try to define “Fear of the unknown”, FOTU is simply being scared of what you don’t know. You get scared of uncertainty. The example of my niece which I gave you in the beginning of this article was classical example of  little kids being afraid of the dark and the “monsters”. To her the elephant looked like a monster. She had never seen it before; so she was afraid that it could be something which could harm her or the people she loves.

The fear of the unknown is basically the anxiety of uncertainty that builds as you prepare to do something, Anal Beads which you’ve never seen/done nor experienced before. This unknown can be person, act, situation or any other thing.

Anything which is out of comfort zone creates fear to sufferer.  At times the thought of fear become bigger than the fear itself. This fear is nothing more than a mental obstacle.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~ Nelson Mandela

What causes fear of the unknown?

Following are the causes of fear of the unknown

Common symptoms of fear of the unknown

Here are the most common symptoms of this type of phobia. The effects of fear on the human body are well known. They include:

How to overcome your fear of the unknown?

You can live your life to your fullest potential only when you overcome your fear of the unknown. There are several ways to deal with this fear and get more out of life. Some of the major tactics are as under

1. Practice Mindfulness

The first step to conquer the fear of unknown is to notice it.  You can do it by practicing mindfulness. The core of mindfulness in live in present moment. Being present in the moment helps you to be more aware of your emotions and thoughts. Your fear of the unknown is created by your thoughts and self-limited beliefs which are all held in your mind. Most of the people do not recognize these thoughts and fear of the unknown become integral part of their life.  Mindfulness will also help you recognize what strategies help you to overcome your fear.

“Many times, the thought of fear itself is greater than what it is we fear.”  ~ Idowu Koyenikan

2. Identify real cause of the fear

Xenophobia or fear of the Unknown is manageable. First thing to do is you need to understand the cause of the fear.  Your fear of the unknown is part of your DNA and is an essential part of our survival. It is a natural human instinct. There is fear that will protect you and heighten your senses to threatening situations. We all have fears about something or the other. The fear stems from past experiences, certain things, situations or memories in life. One need to ask himself what are the situations, things and people we try to avoid in day to day routine life.

Once you identify and relate to the fear to the cause, you can get rid of it by incorporating some basic changes in your life.

3. Manage the Risk

Once you have identified the cause, you may find it, that you can’t control the situation or certain factors are beyond your control. Now what all you have to do it manage the risk associated with the situation or condition. To do this, you need to follow the ALAP

To follow ALAP, find out risks associated, do risk assessment and  and keep it As Low As Possible.

Educating yourself about the fear is the best way to curtail it.

4. Learning from Past

Look back and use the learning from past when you dealt the similar situations. Identify the potential obstacles, strategies to overcome and resources needed for success. Acquire new knowledge and skills and accordingly make your road map.

5. Change the Perception

To deal with fear of the unknown one need to change the perception. Try to replace the fear with the Curiosity. Consider it the opportunity for the enhancement of your knowledge. Ask yourself “What can you learn from the challenge ahead?” Identify the top three things you would like to learn or grow. Be curious about the new learning while dealing with the unknown people, things or situations

Fear of the unknown
Convert the fear to curiosity

“By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.” ~ Alan Wyatts

6. Accept fear of the unknown

The best way you deal with the fear of unknown is to have confidence and accept the uncertainty or the unknown risk. Accepting and tolerating high amounts of uncertainty is an important skill that you must develop. Once you accept the situation, it means you have overcome the half of the fear. Rest you will manage while you deal with it in actual. Go slow with caution and move ahead taking steps one by one towards eliminating the fear. Interestingly once you accept and face the fear, it’s no longer the unknown and thus the core concept of this fear “Unknown” turns in “Known” and you overcome the fear.

Fear of the unknown
Choice is always yours….

“The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.” ~ Gordon Parks

7. Visualization

One of the ways to combat the fear of the unknown is visualization. These techniques will help you focus your spotlight on the positives, rather than concentrating on your fear. Make it a part of your daily habits. Imagine different ways to combat your fear at least once in a day. Find a quiet place, stay seated calmly and visualize in your mind how you are going to conquer your fear. Habitual practice of this activity will make you feel more confident. Through visualizing and meditating, you have already won the battle in your mind, before you set off to take action in your real life. This mental mapping helps you when you face the real fear.

8. Consult mental health professional

In few cases, fear of the unknown becomes severe problem. It may cause panic attacks or even convert into a phobia or anxiety disorder. If your fear is creating significant problems in your day to day life, you may want to consider consulting with a mental health professional. They can provide you with strategies to help you cope, treatment options, and address any deeper issues you may be having.

9. Mindfulness

Fear of the unknown is created by negative thoughts and beliefs which are all held in your mind. It’s a virtual scene which is created in your mind and make you fear to move ahead. Your fears keep your minds busy with negative thoughts and self-talk round the clock.

Such negative thoughts and self-talks will not go away on it’s own. To trap these thoughts and self-talk, the best strategy is to live a mindful life. Mindfulness brings you back to live in the present moment, helping you get away from the negativity and  fear.

Over to you now, please share in comment section what are your ways to deal with the fear of unknown and how you implement them in day to day life.

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