The Problem with Fear of the Unknown

Reading Time: 8 minutes

You are setting in your office and you just got an email from the boss. The phrasing is a bit ambiguous but you read it as he is not happy. So, what do you do? Do you avoid the email act like it isn’t there? Perhaps you go ahead and reply, then start packing your things? When in reality you read the email completely wrong and he is going to offer you a promotion.

Take your teenage son as another example he borrowed the family car. Now he is an hour and a half late for curfew. What as a parent do you think? At best he is broke down somewhere at worst he is dying on the side of the road after a horrible accident. When in this reality he is just cruising up and down Main St. completely oblivious to the time.

We encounter fear more times than we realize. Sometimes it is the blinding panic-inducing fear we see in horror movies while other times it is viewed as a twinge of guilt

Fear is often the catalyst for many different negative emotions. Which we will talk about shortly. Why do we have fear? Why is fear overall bad? Is there a good side to fear?

What is Fear?

Fear is a weird emotion that is created from the amygdala. Some people call this the lizard brain. If you follow evolutionary theory it is the small part of our ancestors who had to worry about becoming cat chow for saber tooth tigers and cave bears.

Fear is generated when your mind sees you doing something that it perceives as being uncomfortable. Whether it is people looking at you while you answer a question, or needing to step outside to go to work. You are faced with fear daily.

There are a few types of fear. There is the unfamiliar and then there is the Unknown then there are the irrational

These days fear is about being uncomfortable. Your brain sees comfort as being safe. So if you are comfortable you are not in any immediate danger.

In spirited away a little girl has to find strength while not being afraid

The Unfamiliar Fear

When people are afraid the first time they try something. Then after trying that event a few times most people aren’t afraid of that task. Whether that task is crossing a street or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. After a few attempts, you are familiar with the event and you don’t have the fight or flight sensation you had the first time you performed that task.

Irrational Fears

These are the different phobia’s running around our world, from Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia. Those are the textbook irrational fears. The fears that cause people to hurt themselves or completely break down because they are all consumed with the object they are afraid of. I am not talking about the made-up phobias that society has created to shame people into compliance.

Many people have phobias which are irrational fears

The typical phobia has some pretty rational basis for the fear but the person has allowed that fear to take over. These folks can often be “cured” by the same way we get over our fears. They are presented with the source of their fear over and over. Often taking little steps.

Take someone with Cynophobia, The fear of dogs. They may first be shows pictures of dogs until they are able to look at the images without feeling anxious or afraid.  They then may be put in a situation as to where they see a dog from the opposite end of a football field. That dog would then be moved closer by 5 yards at each session till eventually the dog is being petted by that person with the fear.

They get familiar with their fear. They realize that they are not going to die by being mauled to death by a duck or anything like that.

Fear of the Unknown

Now, this is the biggest source of fear most people. The fear of the unknown has plagued man since before he left the caves. Fear of the unknown is what causes people to go into that ancient fight or flight mindset.  When the unknown comes around it takes even the strongest man back to cold stary nights with nothing but a pointed stick for protection.

Take going camping. If you have ever been awake late in the night you hear some spooky stuff whether it is an elk snorting at your scent or a screech owl flying overhead. While you lay there you often turn into a little 8 years old who’s imagination often get the better of you.

I know I have often scared myself while laying out on the cow pastures of my youth. That fear is in all reality is your mind telling you to not try. That looks difficult and very uncomfortable, is what you reptile brain likes to say.

Fear can over come you in a spooky feeling place

Your mind often runs the wildest when you are faced with the unknown. Maybe you will die, or worse maybe you will be crippled in some horrific way.

Many people when faced with this fear of the unknown often shut down. It could be in the form of procrastination, or just flat out refusal to acknowledge that the task needs to be done. However, you look at is fear causes you to not take action because it is safer.

This fear of the unknown is why people are often motivated by the fear of pain than by the pursuit of pleasure. The pursuit could contain a lot of uncomfortable events, so why not stay home and watch Netflix instead. That is safe and nobody gets hurt.

Why is Fear Overall a negative emotion?

If there was one emotion that generated more negative emotions I would have to point to fear. When do people fight the most? When one guy is afraid that the other is taking his girl. When does a couple argue the most? When they are in uncertain financial times.


Unknown fear creates so many negative emotions that do more damage than good. A great example is, jealousy. That is an emotion where you don’t know if you can trust your significant other. Be it boyfriend or Wife horrible events have happened because of jealousy.

Look at Carrie Underwoods song “Before He Cheats”

Right now, he’s probably slow dancing
With a bleached-blond tramp
And she’s probably getting frisky

What is the keyword is that phrase? Hint: Probably.

She doesn’t even know if he is in there with a girl. As far as she knows he is in there with his best friend Reggie. They could be having a few drinks because Reggie favorite coon hound was killed. We don’t know why her boyfriend in the bar. We just know that she allowed jealousy to overcome her and she is about to go to jail for destruction of property.

Lose Opportunities

Fear causes people to lose many different opportunities. An example is when I was trying to get a business started and to do it I needed to go find some customers. That meant I was going to go business to business and try to talk to them about social media.

Fear won out several times in that instance. I would sometimes walk into the business. but not talk to them about their social media strategy. I lost a lot of opportunities. Other times I did talk to them about what I was there for My fear said that I wasn’t confident enough.

Force of Will

Often people use fear as a means to control other people. That fear often is in the form of guilt. People will often use a secret against you. The leverage they hope for is that your guilt and shame will cause you to perform their will.

Relationship Destruction

Fear also has destroyed relationships. It could be that the husband is worried about his job and he doesn’t is afraid to let his wife know about the problems at hand because he doesn’t want her to worry.

The lack of communication doesn’t go unnoticed by the little lady. She realizes that he is withdrawing and becomes fearful. which adds fuel to his fears, because she is withdrawing. If neither one makes a change the marriage will collapse under all the fear of the unknown.

Fear causes many men to turn evil

From the rise of the Nazi party to our own societal problems of today. So much hatred is created by fear. Fear turned many good German men into monsters because they feared that Jewish people were taking all their money. They feared a race of people who according to their leader was the superior race. Yet if they were superior then why were they so hell-bent on the destruction of another race. Their fear showed through

Then you look at the jim crow era of the US and you saw so much fear that was based on the unknown. Not knowing what they were even afraid. A great example of this is from the Help


The segregation of the bathroom drove home how off this fear-based mindset really is. Now did they really act like that? It’s very possible and sad that smart people were controlled by such fear of the unknown.

Much as Yoda said about fear…

Yes, lots of suffering. Fear has killed millions of people all around the world for the jews in WWII to Stalin’s elimination of the Kulaks and other “socially harmful elements”, which caused the resulting famine in Ukraine. The Killing fields of Pol Pots Cambodia, to the racial cleansing of Darfur. All of this suffering is from one emotion, fear.

There being fear of the unknown to the primal fear of being shot Fear was everywhere in Nazi Germany
Here you see several forms of fear but all originated from the Fear of the unknown.

Now I don’t think you are going to start killing people that fear of the unknown can be spotted and if people listen can be stopped.  Yet there is a fear of the unknown that COuld be causing you problems. How many times have you acted in a way because you are afraid of what people will think?

Often we get on to our kids because we worry about what the neighbors will say. I am guilty of it. As is anybody else who is lives in a close community.  You are afraid of looking bad in front of the neighbors.

The funny thing about that is you would be afraid if you knew exactly how little the neighbors think of you and what’s going on over at your house. Most people are too busy with their own lives to worry about yours.

Is there a good side of Fear

Well yeah, fear does have its uses though very rare. If you are in a part of a city that has high crime and you are out later than you intended then fear can help you stay more alert.

If you are in a combat setting fear can keep you alive by causing your adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline which can help with your reflexes. So though fear often produces negative emotions there are times that fear is welcomed.

How can you overcome fear?

Now that is the $1,000,000 question, isn’t it? What I have been doing to battle fear when it arrises, is first recognize that fear. Name it. Own it. That’s because an emotion or feeling is nothing more than a vibration in your body. If you have the forethought to recognize that you are feeling an emotion, you can say to yourself. “Fear, this is fear that I am feeling.”

Be ok with that feeling. Examine that sensation or vibration you are experiencing. Accept that you are having a moment of fear. Then when you are comfortable with having that emotion you can then change that emotion with something completely different. trade it out for wonder or curiosity. Then see what you discover.

Does this mean that you won’t be anxious when doing something new? No, your lizard brain will always be talking but it will only have the ability to offer its input, but you can choose to not let it have the controls. Your heart will still pound and you may break out in a cold sweat. Yet you will also be able to do so with a smile on your face from the exhilaration when done.

Sounds easy in theory. Putting it into practice and whole other ballgame. It does take practice and a little coaching doesn’t hurt either. Eventually, you will recognize when you and other folks when are operating in fear. You will see that their problems are a lot more superficial than they believe. Yet because they are operating in a fear-based mindset they are making a mountain out of a molehill.

So in closing fear is, in many ways worse than anger. That because fear creates anger. It can debilitate and incapacitate the strongest of men. Fear can be beat with knowledge and experience. Yet if you ask yourself a simple question you can relegate fear to the back row. That question is “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Taking time to understand the fear and knowing that fear is often why bad things happen. You have a tool to help battle fear in you and those around you. That tool is right in between your ears. As long as you are aware you can be on the lookout of fear. You can find ways to keep blind panic at bay. That way you can see the whole picture and be the best leader you can.

How do you fight fear? Leave a comment below.

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.


  1. It was a good read. Reading good side of fear brought in some positive vibes in me. 😊

  2. Nice post! I have never broken down fear into so many different categories. I found that part interesting. I also relate to the acceptance of fear as a sensation instead of turning away from it and ignoring it. Thank you for sharing. I think many will benefit from reading it.

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