We do not truly fear the unknown. In reality, we fear a recurrence of painful events we have already experienced, seen, or know have happened to someone else. This fear of recurrence is understandable, and yet it can trap us in a vicious cycle. When we get stuck in a defensive posture, it can dictate our futures. We are in danger of coloring our futures with the pains of our pasts. We inadvertently fear the known—not the unknown.
By coloring our futures with a readiness for repetition of pain, we do so to make life more predictable. We “think” the preparation leads to less pain. Hoping for a future that is better the past is a very difficult challenge to us because a positive difference of change can be even more anxiety provoking than the past we have already endured. Outcomes that are better than the past become more difficult to tolerate than being prepared for disasters or difficulties that have already hurt us.
Ironically, the safest place we know is the tragic, sad comfort of knowing bad things will happen and always remaining prepared for them through hyper-vigilance/anxiety and its subsequent control factors. We have survived a tornado, for example, and head to the safety bunker every time it rains. Our safety becomes our vigilant preparation for a repetition of the past. We live attempting to prevent something that has already occurred. We fight phantoms that were once real experiences. This dynamic is a real attempt to not repeat experiences that were real. And this dynamic is what we have for so long called fear of the unknown, when it is actually fear of past pains, many of which have never been processed or dealt with emotionally. Instead, they have been endured only.
If our pasts dictate the future, and if our pasts dictate the ability to hope for a better/different life than our pasts, then we can only go into tomorrow by keeping tomorrow in the comfort zone of yesterday—what we have already survived. We don’t have control over much of what tomorrow will bring. However, if we redevelop a growing trust in how we are created to live fully in relationship: (1) we can reach out for the “better” by being with others truthfully who are truthful, (2) we can talk about our pasts as emotional experiences with others who can do the same, (3) we can process our fears of tomorrow with others to risk the courage of hoping for a difference.
We are not created to step into tomorrow alone or by just commanding ourselves to think differently. The past is emotionally laden; therefore, the change is emotionally oriented. We must change with others. We can walk through our fears with others into the mystery of life unfolding into its possibilities—both the painful, which we will not see as dictators of our futures, and the wonderful, which we can see and feel and accept because our pasts are not the summation of our futures. We understandably fear the history of our yesterdays. We are to learn from the past, and integrate it into the wisdom of living. And yet we are created for the mysteries of our tomorrows.