I have a theory that the root of all fear is the unknown. The best way to explain is through examples:

  • Fear of the dark = what is in the dark = the dark is unknown
  • Fear of loss = how will I feel / how will I fill the void = feelings and void are unknown
  • Fear of heights = what if I fall = unknown if I will fall
  • Fear of spiders = what happens if I get bit = fear of adverse reaction
  • Fear of enclosed spaces = what if I get trapped = fear of unknown circumstance
  • Fear of death = what happens after death = future unknown

The list could continue, but that is sufficient for the basis of my theory. The point is, that we fear because we don’t know what is on the other side of that fear.

The root of all fears being “the unknown” is why I believe, and personally know, that the tool of fear-setting as outlined by Tim Ferriss is powerful. It forces you to assess the possible outcomes of the circumstance which you fear.

You must confront the worst-case scenarios. And in doing so, you remove a portion of the unknown which makes the fear more palatable. Furthermore, you then must write out the countermeasures to those worst-case scenarios: “if they were to come to pass, what could you do?”

The act of confronting the possible negative outcomes along with outlining steps should they happen is remarkably comforting. You can almost feel the fear-induced anxiety drain from your body through the process. The fear that must be faced seems less when the exercise is complete.

Fears are meant to be faced; if they are not, the fear can come to define you. However, I would not encourage someone afraid of heights to go stand at the edge of a cliff without proper mental preparation. That is why the first step in confronting any fear is to take the time to reflect on the obstacle whether through fear-setting or a few minutes to journal.

In closing, what fear is standing in your way?

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