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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

Fear of the Unknown

So, by the time you are reading this post, the ‘Beast from East’ will have hit the east coast of Ireland. It’s Wednesday as I write this and for the past two days social media has been inundated with images of empty shelves in supermarkets as people panic buy, fearful that they will be snowed in and unable to access vital services such as food, or even be without electricity or water. Conversations abound about the big snow of 1982 and the more recent snow of 2010 with most sharing some tale of the unexpected and the risks that could be faced now. For most of us it’s this unknown factor of what might occur that drives the behaviour of panic buying. At least if you have a house full of bread and milk, you won’t starve.

Fear of the unknown is one of the most common causes of stress in the clients I see both face to face and online. Ironically that is not what brings them to my door at the outset, but it is usually what we uncover after some chatting and asking and answering specific questions. For most of us we have a certain outcome that we are trying to avoid, or a set of feelings but we often don’t explore what that outcome might mean or what we could do if the inevitable happens.

One of the best ways to make the unknown less frightening is to think about what might actually happen; the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario and the most likely. For each one come up with a plan or strategy as to what could be done if this event occurs. Think about the options and especially the resources that are already in place to help solve this problem. When we put ourselves in a place of power the unknown become less frightening because we know we can figure out a way to be ok. The more we do this the easier it gets and eventually we get so used to problem solving that we start to trust that we can solve problems easily and we begin to trust ourselves and our abilities.

Buying all the bread in the shop is a reactive version of this with less thinking and more feeling irrationally. If we take the time to plan out what might happen and what will most likely happen then we are more inclined to make better decisions. Of course, the other side of this is if you aren’t attached to an outcome the unknown is no longer a problem but that’s a chat about Buddhist thinking for another day.

Thanks for reading.

I hope our paths cross again in the future,


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