Our fear of the future cripples our freedom. It cages who we are, too afraid to let go, fearful to leave, with the illusion of safety. After all, what we know is better than what we don’t, right? Isn’t that what we are told and what we tell ourselves every time doubts and questions creep into our minds? The sense of alarm resulting from the uncertainty of the future forces us to create a sense of contentment with our current situation. We develop what the French writer Stendhal described as “Crystallization,” where people tend to idealize their beloved ones, thus forming “selective version of reality”. In other words, we end up romanticizing our current situations because of our fear of the future.
Submerging the reality of our present circumstances happens through a systematic process of reminding ourselves why we made our current choices. At the core of this justification, “safety”, always stands out. And I do mean the safety of the known vs. the overwhelming feeling of the unknown.
As a result, we find ourselves more likely to endure unhealthy relationships, hold onto past memories and beloved ones, keep a friendship which died long ago going, or stay in a job we hate or is indifferent to, jobs where we have to drag ourselves from bed everyday to make an appearance. That is why we find ourselves trying to fix a dysfunctional marriage or a relationship that drains and abuses us emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. The fact that we heavily invested our time, efforts and emotions in these relationships freaks us out when we think of going through it all over again with new people.
Rose Maxon, the character played by Viola Davis in the movie “Fences”, had to put up with her husband Troy’s betrayal and mistreatment, because, as a wife and woman, walking away wasn’t an option. In her mind, she was still in love with the timeworn illusion of the man she once fell in love with. Knowing that “it wasn’t never gonna bloom” didn’t matter, nor did it push her to explore new opportunities or new future. Her fear of uncertainty was greater. However, it is crucial to note that people, especially women, also get stuck in abusive relationships because of many other factors such as patriarchal societies, financial dependencies and cultural dictates.
The fear of the future triggers many difficult questions we rarely want to face, questions that increase our discomfort because they force us to reflect on who we and our insecurities are. The idea of letting go of what we know or hold into makes us wonder: What will happen if we can’t find someone who will love us? What if the past repeats itself? What if we failed? If we don’t find a job? If we go through the same pain again and again? If we grow old lonely? How will society react? What will be the cost of throwing ourselves into the land of unknown? Can we afford the cost? The list of questions can be infinite.
Essentially, our fear magnifies the consequences of these questions, causing our current distressing circumstances to pale in comparison. The equation would be, by knowing the good, bad and ugly of our relationships and memories, we have more control over the known present than the obscure future. And we get stuck, accepting much less than what we truly deserve. Slowly, the bubble of the past destroys our energy, self-confidence and emotions. We think that we are unworthy of love, because the only love we can achieve get lives in the past. We cave in when making decision about our future. And we become trapped between the two worlds, neither living in the past nor venturing into the future.
There are many people like that, myself included, trying to survive the past and figuring out the future. To those people, I salute you for your courage in surviving. And I believe that one day our courage will blossom to the point where we can leap into the future, despite our fears. Until then, let’s support each other.
**This blog was originally published at Huffington Post 01/10/2017 03:53 pm ET