Sunday, 25 July 2010

Fear of the future

My regular readers will know about my fear of darkness. But it's only just dawned on me that I also have a fear of the future*.

It came to me in a blinding flash. I was thinking about my various anxieties and realised they all had a common theme - I was nervous of what might happen in the years ahead.

I'm happy enough with the past. I don't regret anything I've done, and by and large I don't wish I had had a different sort of life. Fate has been kind to me and sent me wonderful opportunities and experiences. And the present is okay too. Whatever I'm doing, whoever I'm with, I just try to get the best out of it and make light of the negatives.

But the future's a different matter. It's so uncertain. There's no guarantee it'll be as pleasurable as the past, that things will go as smoothly, that I'll still be able to cope with whatever's flung at me. Disaster is as possible as good fortune. Unhappiness is as possible as joy.

I envy those who assume the future can only mean more pleasure, more success, more wisdom, a constant movement onwards and upwards. I just don't have that confidence, that faith.

Maybe it's because life has been so good to me up till now I'm afraid it can only be less good in the future. My luck can't hold forever. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and therefore likely to become physically frail or senile. Maybe it's because I know how easily some unexpected turn of events can shatter a comfortable existence.

Whatever the cause, I can't see any obvious way of combatting this fear. However much I tell myself there's no point in worrying about the future, precisely because it's unpredictable and unknowable, and because none of my imagined scary scenarios might actually happen, it doesn't stop the anxieties bubbling to the surface and stubbornly persisting. I can rationalise and intellectualise all I like, the rest of my brain takes no notice.

All I can do with this annoying syndrome, like all my other weird quirks, is to minimise it and stop it spoiling my enjoyment of life. I must let the future take care of itself.

PS: Maybe I'm going over the top here. If it's only the possible misfortunes I'm afraid of, and not the pleasures, maybe it's simply a fear of disaster. Or as the therapist Fritz Perls put it, catastrophic expectations. Or pessimism....

* Oddly enough, there seems to be no technical term for this particular phobia

21 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

"Living in the moment" and "staying where my hands are" are a couple of the sane mantras that stop me projecting, Nick.
Easier said than done but I hate stealing from my nows, thinking "this can't last" or "life has to go downhill from here".
Just enjoy the wonderful life you have, my friend, tomorrow is so unknown, no point in trying to stare at an ephimeral.
XO
WWW

Grannymar said...

If the so called 'Great Plan' was for you to die in your sleep, than all the precious moments spent worrying would be a terrible waste. Enjoy NOW and leave tomorrow's worries until that day dawns.

Miss-Minxy said...

I get this too Nick. The future is uncertain and staying in the present can be taxing with so many things to distract us away form it. I felt a bit like this today. It sucks doesn't it?

Putz said...

hi nick, i am one of the many of kylie's men commentors, and i have enjoyed your comments on her blog and now that i have reAd some of your own posts i can see why>>>>you seem to have a spiritual side and if not you are certainly a philospher>>>i have been to your country and loved all the green>>you are just a tad younger than meso to the enjoyments of life i say la>heiam{SP}

Nick said...

www - Oh, I enjoy the here and now, which explains the title of my blog! And I totally appreciate my wonderful life. I just wish I didn't fret so much about what lies ahead.

Grannymar - Ah, that's another rational comment that my brain refuses to process! Indeed, I may die in my sleep without enduring any horrible illness. But supposing I don't....

Nick said...

Minxy - I don't have much trouble staying in the present, I'm quite a single-minded person. But every so often I get a wave of these future-related anxieties and it's hard to shake them off again.

Putz - Thanks. Spiritual and philosophical, you're right there. Perhaps if I was more down-to-earth I wouldn't worry about the future so much! Perhaps....

Eryl Shields said...

I used to worry about the future until many of my worst fears came about (in rather quick succession) and I found they weren't that bad after all. Or, rather, they were really bad at the time but I dealt with them and still enjoy my life. In fact I enjoy it more, I feel much stronger and capable of dealing with pretty much anything. So you are probably right: it could well be because life has been so good to you thus far. Perhaps you should try, not to block out those fears, but to fully imagine them: make them as real as possible so you can see how you'd cope. What is the very worst thing that could possibly happen in the future?

Nick said...

Eryl - That's really interesting, how your worst fears came about and you coped and feel stronger for it. Yes, blocking out fears isn't healthy because they're still bubbling away somewhere. Fully imagining the worst scenario is a good idea, I shall try that.

Baino said...

Crazy isn't it though? There's not a damn thing you can do about the 'future' really other than keep yourself in good health and provide for it financially, it'll happen whether you fret or not.

Nick said...

Baino - But that's the sort of thing I fret about. Will my good health continue? Will I have enough money? All I can do is wait and see.

kylie said...

i worry about the future too

but not enough to spur me to any real action, it's a flaw

Megan said...

I don't really worry for myself. Not yet. Maybe because I pretty much pretend that I'm still around 28 or so and so I've got plenty of time. Denial, that's my flaw. :)

Nick said...

Kylie - That's the snag, on the whole there's not much real action you can take because you don't know what's coming.

Megan - As I said to Kylie! Even if you have plenty of time, you don't know what you should be planning for. You could be thrown by something totally unexpected.

Eternally Distracted said...

I had a comment but it seems Grannymar stole it ;0)

Nick said...

Grannymar, you thief, come back with that comment immediately!

But, Distracted, that's one of my worries, that instead of just dying in my sleep at some sensible age, I'll linger on for decades getting more and more decrepit.

Liz said...

Gosh, nick, this is a very honest post and I wouldn't have thought it of you (the fear not the honesty!)

But you have coped with everything life's thrown at you so far - and I don't believe you have reached your age (about mine) with a totally carefree life - and you will deal with anything that comes.

Isn't it maybe that you've had such a good life because your attitude has been positive and upbeat?

And, hey, we'll all come to visit you in the nursing home and we can compare insanity.

Nick said...

Liz - I think I got a bit carried away here. Yes, I'm afraid of the disasters or tricky problems the future might bring, but I know there'll also be plenty of pleasures and successes. It's really just a stubborn streak of pessimism in an otherwise optimistic outlook.

Rummuser said...

Nick, we all have some degree of fear of the future. We would not be human if we did not.

Nick said...

Ramana - But is it really something as sweeping as fear of the future or is it fear of more specific things like being hard-up or losing a loved one?

Rummuser said...

I should imagine that it is both. I also suspect that it is more troubling to people who have had hard times in the past and live in relative comfort at the present. It is the fear of losing that comfort level which spins off into specifics like, getting back to being broke or ill or whatever. The experience of the past casting its shadow on the future as it were.

Nick said...

Ramana - I expect you're right about the anxiety being particularly acute among those who have a precarious hold on a comfortable lifestyle. They're always nervous it'll suddenly be taken away from them again.