People fear the worst in most situations due to an inherent negativity bias.
Your mind will give greater importance to your survival and happiness, and therefore whatever disrupts this is awarded more attention.
The mind’s negativity bias is an evolutionary system that has helped humans survive throughout history. It allowed early man to endure the external elements, yet it can also become habitual and a difficult mechanism to switch off.
People tend to expect the worst in a situation, and are generally adamant they’re right if the event comes to pass – and thus a vicious cycle ensues.
Whilst you cannot control what happens, you can control your response to it.
Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl espouses this idea in Man’s Search For Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Fear and anxiety are old foes that feed off each other. However, being aware of your predominant thoughts helps you know what you are giving your attention to.
Fear is a tale told by the mind and kept alive through repeated thoughts.
“When life gets scary and difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places where it is easy or at least familiar to do so, and not in the dark, uncomfortable places where real solutions might lie,” affirms author Robert Maurer in One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
Thoughts Are Not Your Enemy
The same mind that forms negative thoughts also creates empowering thoughts. It is merely a matter of choosing what you lean your attention towards.
Thoughts are not the enemy, they are non-material episodes projected onto the mind through consciousness. It is when you attach meaning to the thoughts that they lead you into a dark place.
There are many factors that account for fearful thoughts, including lack of sleep, genetics, poor diet, illness, substance and alcohol abuse as well as low self-esteem, to name a few.
Sometimes, external events can play a role and you may be prone to heightened anxiety and depression.
Depression is defined as a persistent low mood lasting more than two weeks. It includes a state of melancholy and may be accompanied by a range of physical and emotional symptoms.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, your thoughts may not be in harmony with your true self. It is important to recognise this instead of bowing to these emotional states.
“Whatever your storyteller does to attempt to get rid of fear only causes more fear. So the way out of fear is to get to know it through your heart,” states author Mary O’Malley in What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life.
Reframing Your Thoughts
To expect a better outcome, reframe your thoughts and move in the new direction.
Expand your horizons, instead of castigating yourself.
Self-compassion is shown to boost self-esteem, leading in turn to better decision-making.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.” — John Milton
How might you console a family member, a friend or a colleague in a similar position?
I’m certain you would not deride them, rather you’d encourage them to consider their circumstances through a new lens?
To stop fearing the worst, avoid ruminating on negative thoughts and move your attention into your body.
Notice your breath and the ebb and flow it creates while sitting in silence.
You might even meditate on the sound of your breath to further calm your nervous system.
You cannot make rational decisions when your mind is trapped in negative thinking. The key is to flip the switch and shift your physical state from stressed to calm.
Matt Kahn, author of Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins with You notes: “On a cellular level, whenever a person has an emotional reaction, their nervous system is releasing layers of conditioning.”
Trying to reason with anxious thoughts is like grappling with a sumo wrestler; you are bound to lose.
Acceptance Leads To Inner Peace
Accept your thoughts, however intense they might be but don’t buy into the narrative they promote.
Acceptance means dropping any resistance to what is taking place. From a place of non-resistance arises power to transform your inner struggle in harmony with your highest good.
When you oppose what is taking place, your mind considers it a threat to your survival. So, drop any opposition and let your thoughts take you where they need to go.
“Any pattern of mental events that we repeat and become familiar with will become a predominant pattern in our life. Why? Because we feed that pattern and recharge it with our attention. That is why it has power. It is not because that pattern is real. It is just because we think it is real and respond accordingly,” avows Buddhist teacher Orgyen Chowang in Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness.
Journaling is a powerful tool to help you get thoughts out of your mind and onto paper while observing their main theme.
Often, thoughts pass through the mind at such a quick rate they become runaway thoughts. You cannot recognise them, let alone recall them.
Journaling can help you see the true nature of your thoughts, so they no longer wreak havoc in your life.
Knowledge, awareness and taking the right action are useful tools to stop fearing the worst in most situations.
Gradually, you will realise that external conditions are not the source of your negative thoughts, but your own reaction and the meaning you assign to them.
It is possible to find peace and contentment within yourself and not consider the worst case scenario.
It starts by renewing your commitment to change your perspective and uphold this new image.
Sooner or later, you will realise your projected image of fear is nothing more than a tale told by a frightened mind instead of an empowered being.