Facing unknown situations is a specific aspect of life. You choose to move to a new place or start a new job or endeavor. At the beginning, unfamiliar situations require attention and energy to discover and clarify what happens around you. I’m fascinated by the unknown because I can learn something new. In January 2019, I moved to London and this was the most unknown situation of my life. This was an emotional earthquake. I decided very quickly because in that period I was starving to realize my professional dreams, but in Italy I didn’t see new opportunities. Leaving my country was not difficult. The motivation and ambition to realize something great supported the transition.
How do the brain and emotions communicate in unknown situations?
Your personality traits and ability to have an adaptive response to unexpected events in your life influence the reply of the brain to unknown situations. Therefore, the person, who enjoys discovery and diversity, is fascinated and attracted by the unknown and sees in it a way to challenge their limits. This was my main stimulus to accept the challenge to move abroad and get out of my comfort zone. On the other hand, the person who fears the unknown is reluctant and overwhelmed by the sensation of being powerless when everything is not immediately under control.
The core emotions are anger, anxiety and fright. The emotional reaction is to believe that you can’t change the situation in a positive way. The brain activates an archaic response: fighting in front of a dangerous situation. You don’t know anymore the environment where you live, and this makes you feel insecure and scared. The fear of not being in control of your life let you anticipate threats to your safety. The consequent unconscious behavioral response is to avoid, freeze, hesitate, ruminate, scream, withdraw, worry.
Professor Paul Elkan, an American psychologist and a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relationship to facial expressions, describes the different states of fear, from less intense to more:
How often do you live those emotions?
When you are in a situation not immediately under your control, you have more chances to experiment those emotions. I lived many of those emotions during the first months in London. I was in a new environment and in an unknown situation. I lost the comfort of my home in a beloved city, my consolidated social network of people, basically an established life in Italy. I was particularly anxious. I had so many expectations and wanted to prove myself this was the best choice of my life. I immediately wanted to get to know everything around me and feel in control of my life.
How can you overcome your fears?
An adaptive response to manage unfamiliar situations better involves acceptance of your fears. Time will help you to evaluate and feel more comfortable. Being consciously curious and willing to learn new things about yourself and the environment around. Be mindful of your strengths and reframe the new situation with a positive outlook. Live the present time. The fear is only an inherent emotion of human nature.
After one year in this new city, I still have moments of panic and fear, but this is absolutely the best choice of my life. Day by day, everything becomes more familiar and the unknown is the great encouragement to learn new things and to develop as a human being.
To learn something more about emotions and their triggers, visit this website.