The Scary Unknown

Beliefs are beneficial. They take away the fear of the unknown.
“Familiar is safe and comfortable,” says a mental rule. Unfamiliarity is dangerous and unpleasant.” Anxiety has been installed as a survival mechanism in our biological and anthropological history. When the world was dangerous, with predators lurking behind bushes looking for a tasty human treat, this deep programme came in handy. Those who remained in the cave and were more cautious survived. Those who were more daring, venturing into new territory, were eaten and were unable to reproduce. We inherited that cautious nature.

Even in our modern world, where we are 98.5% safe (a statistic I made up to make you feel better), this ancient programme runs in the background, causing anxiety on a low or high level. We experience fear whenever we are in unfamiliar territory, are uncertain, or do not understand what is going on.

Here’s a thought experiment: Feel what it’s like to have the belief, “I have no idea what’s going to happen next.” Say it to yourself as if it were 100% true, and you will experience a very familiar sensation. Next, imagine yourself holding the belief, “Something bad might happen.” You will sense a biological signal that heightens your awareness and prepares you for “fight, fight, freeze, or fold” the four limbic system responses to stress.

Having a belief, even if it is incorrect, is a convenient way to avoid those unpleasant sensations. A belief brings us back to the security of the known: “It’s okay, it’s just the wind.” “Daddy is here to keep you safe.” “There are no monsters beneath your bed.” We feel safe when someone bigger than us promises to protect us from bad things that go bump in the night. This is how we elect demagogues to positions of political power. They remind us of the dangers that lurk outside our door and persuade us that their power and strength will protect us. We need a Big Daddy to keep us safe from monsters and the unknown.

We are motivated to figure out and prepare for whatever is unknown to us. Our survival is at stake, and knowing what to do gives us a much better chance of surviving the next snowstorm, famine, or attack. When you “figure it out,” you build a belief. Because we live in a mostly predictable universe, “planning ahead” is based on that belief. It is effective until it is not. It’s tense, uncertain, complicated, and ambiguous. No amount of advance planning will help. All you can do is your best under the circumstances. In an emergency, apply awareness first.

When we’re unsure about our past, beliefs can help us make sense of it. Why did that happen to me?” a child may enquire. “Why didn’t I get my needs met?” they ask, concluding that it’s their fault: “I’m a terrible person. That’s why Daddy punches me.” Something is resolved. The belief may be false, but what was previously unknown is now known. The uncertainty has taken root deep within the body and psyche.

Every belief we gained alleviated some of our anxiety or uncertainty. Do you remember how you felt in school when you were called on and didn’t know what to say? That’s the feeling of embarrassment, especially if kids mocked you for not knowing. Some children are motivated by this feeling to reach a positive conclusion/belief: “I never want that to happen again, so I’ll learn all the answers.” More commonly, children take the downward path into the belief, “I’m just stupid. That’s something I’ll never learn. “I’m done.”

Beliefs do not cease to exist when their usefulness is exhausted. Even as adults, we are controlled by our old beliefs, which can be triggered by similar circumstances. The boss asks you a question to which you do not know the answer. Your cheeks flush. That bitter taste of shame returns. You suddenly feel (and behave) like you’re seven years old.

When you delete old, useless beliefs, you make room for new, useful, and empowering beliefs to take their place. When you realise that beliefs are only useful for comfort, you can face the unknown with centred Presence rather than old patterns. Your natural excitement, curiosity, and playfulness resurface. You become more alive and aware in the present moment because you are no longer bound by the need to feel safe. This is no-limits living, and it’s right now. Begin by letting go of your need to be certain, correct, and knowledgeable.

Hi, I’m Garima and I write about life experiences. I have several books available on Amazon. Check them out today! Any purchases or KDP reads will be greatly appreciated. If you like my books, do leave a review. Here’s my author page on Amazon –


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Muse Feed says:

    Sometimes what we want provokes us to be courageous and our anxiety hinders that. It all depends on the context. Nonetheless, this post inspired me. Thank you for writing such motivational content.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

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