Fear of the Unknown

Do you Fear the Unknown?

This month’s Insight is centred around the Fear of the Unknown, officially referred to as Xenophobia. This fear is present in almost everyone to a certain degree, and in its more severe occurrences an be extremely debilitating, cementing us in our current reality and preventing us from taking the necessary steps towards personal growth and a brighter future.

Derived from Greek word “Xenos”, meaning foreigner or stranger, Xenophobia can be directed towards a person or object that is perceived as strange or foreign, or can be directed towards any situation, real or imagined, that is likewise perceived. It is most commonly associated with individuals that are seen to be foreign or strange and is one of the roots of a lot of the racism and hatred we see in our society and between different cultures and ethnicities around the world.

The Root of Most Fears

In my studies of other people and what holds most people glued in their current situations, I’ve found that this fear of the unknown is probably the overarching fear that almost all other fears are stemmed from.

Personal Development and Growth

When it comes to personal development and growth, it’s not really fear of the unknown per say, it is more fear that forging on into the unknown will end us up in a worse situation than we are currently in. This keeps us grounded in our current situations and although most people whine and complain continuously about their reality, they are not willing or able to make significant changes because of the perceived risks of the unknown negative aspects that could accompany such changes.

Although I’ve been cognoscente about this fear and it’s potential to hold me back, it can be a difficult thing to gain dominion over and I’ve been held back by this fear many times in my life. I’m not proud of this fact but at times I’ve avoided situations where there was potential for social embarrassment or ridicule, situations where I didn’t feel in control, situations that I visualized as being negative, conditions that left me exposed to judgement or opinions of others and some challenges that I simply didn’t totally understand.

This active avoidance of the unknown has a very unfortunate effect in that it cements these fears in our subconscious and thus the next time that the situation or perceived situation arises, the fear is that much more powerful. Anxiety and worry creep into our lives and we begin to live in a state of constant uneasiness and apprehension.

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown

The key to overcoming Xenophobia, that I have found to be most effective in my own life, involves two primary steps that can be pursued in parallel. The first is self-education. We need to understand the mechanisms of the mind that are behind the fear and active avoidance. Through research and learning from others, it helps put the fear into perspective and, although the situation itself is often still unknown, there is a certain amount of solace in understanding why and how this fear is attempting to control our decisions.

The second step in overcoming Xenophobia is often more difficult but an absolute must. It involves a progressive yet strategic exposure and commitment to the situations we are most fearful of. Through small steps, we build up the mental fortitude and self-confidence to enter the unknown with a greater feeling of inner composure.

These are the steps I have used to get through a number of fears in my own life relating to the unknown and some fears that I still struggle with from time to time. It sounds easy on paper but in reality following-through with these steps takes discipline, resilience and commitment. It can be a bit of a journey but it is worth the effort and can free us of debilitating psychological barriers that hold us back.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt