Have you ever watched a scary movie where you never actually see the predator or villain? You know those movies where all you get is music and clever camera work to let you know that the danger is imminent, or what’s even worse for me, is when the villain is wearing a mask. If you find fear in what you can’t see, then you’re not alone, as research has concluded that the most frightening movie monsters and villains, are the ones you never see. Stay watching as today, let’s I talk about why we fear the unknown, and how to stop worrying
If you find fear in what you can’t see, then you’re not alone, as research has concluded that the most frightening movie monsters and villains, are the ones you never see. But this isn’t by accident as movie makers have followed the rule ‘don’t show the monster” for years knowing that “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is 'fear of the unknown.” You see, the human brain is more than capable of filling in any gaps, and when left to its own devises, it will come up with something far more disturbing than any writer or director could ever portray on screen.
But it doesn’t need to be a Hollywood blockbuster to keep you awake at night, as just like that unseen movie monster, the most nagging and distressing concerns we have in our day to day lives, are usually the ones we can’t see, it’s those scenarios that without any specific mental imagery, we create the monster in our minds.
imagination is made up from different sensory networks, you may SEE memories such as re-living a holiday, or maybe its a hypothetical event, such as SEEING yourself in a different job, or visualising yourself living with the perfect partner, or you may be more word oriented where your thoughts are led by language, and that inner voice that keeps on telling you, what it believes to be true.
We all use both of these processes, sometimes we sit and visualise our life, and we mentally role play, how it’s going to be, or, we narrate our lives with words. The exterior world is mainly image based, it’s what we see, and therefore what we know, and when we know what we are facing, it’s so much easier to plan a solution. Worry on the other hand, is more internal and just like the monsters in the movies, an anxious mind fears what we can’t see and doesn’t know. Imagine a horror movie where they told you what was about to happen, take away the unknown and you take away the fear.
When we look at our futures with images we often see ourselves as successful, and achieving the things we dream of, yet when we think about our future in words, it’s more like we are writing our own script and we are only able to write about all the possible negative outcomes, in other words, we tend to make our story up as we go along.
We make more decisions than we are consciously aware of every single day, but what makes us worry is when we are forced to make decisions with unknown outcomes, meaning we have no idea what the end result will be.
Look at t this way, if you are looking to do something new in your life, something that you haven’t done before, like running a marathon for the first time, you can still visualise the journey and the outcome, you don’t really know what it is really going to be like, but you can at least imagine it so there are no major surprises, it’s a bit like knowing who the baddie is, you still have to face them, but you know what to expect. But facing the the unknown has a totally different effect on your thought process, as there are no reference points to tell you what you are up against, or to help you judge whether it’s going well or not.
Imaging this unknown territory as changing your career, you have no ability to visualise yourself in a role you have never done, with people you have never met, in an environment you have never seen, or imagine driving in a country you have never seen before without a map, you have no idea what is round each corner, no matter how much you try to visualise it, every turn you make is taking you further into the unknown.
For some people, the unknown is adventure, it provides opportunity and the chance to face and overcome new obstacles, but for others facing the unknown brings fear that robs them of the ability to grow and move forward. Worry is the barrier between where you are now and the unknown in front of you, the fear of taking a wrong turn, or not liking where you end up leads to a stress response as you merely perceive that there is a threat. Just like the unseen monster in the movies, the mind writes the script and convinces you that something bad is about to happen, your mind experiences and event as if it is really happening, even though it isn’t.
Whatever situations you fear facing in your life, either personal or professional, are very often not real, but you write a script that is a self filling prophesy where the imaged threat is believed to be real. I remember walking back to may car one night, it was late, dark and the streets were empty. As soon as a thought about the possible dangers’ my heart began to race, my breathing quickened and all sense were weighted. This wasn’t because I had seen a sinister figure coming towards me, the mere thought of what could happened became a real experience in my mind. But it doesn’t end there, as I didn’t get in the car and lock the doors driving off feeling fine, I ent to bed with my heart still racing at the thoughts of what could have been, and not only that, this happened over 25 years ago … and I can still recall the sensations to this day.
I do accept that my worry was probably quite justified, but we all have our walking to the car late at night fears. It could be attending work meetings or having the in-laws for Christmas, so regardless of what it may be, what are you worrying about and what script are you currently writing of how it is going to be?
The 7 7 7 rule may just help you face all your unknowns and get you through the next few days, weeks or months. It more of a reality check as it allows you to stop the movie, turn the lights on and look at the monster realising that its actually not that scary. If you watched Jaws when it first came out, how many of you screamed when the head popped out of the boat, and how many of you watch it now and laugh at the plastic shark and a fake head, yet the music on its own is still terrifying.
Ask yourself, will it matter in 7 minutes? Will it matter in 7 days? Will it matter in 7 years?
Lets say you are moving house, changing jobs or separating from a partner for example, in 7 minutes you will probably feel anxious, but in 7 days you will have settled into the new house or job, and you will be starting to think about your life out of a unhappy relationship. In 7 years you’ll be part of the neighbourhood, working up the ladder with the job promotions and who knows, you could have met the partner of your dreams with toddlers running round the house.
Unknowns can bring new opportunities, so instead of predicting the future disasters, write the script yourself, and why worry about it, look at it with the lights on and you have the power to make it a happy ending.