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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Gravitating Towards the Familiar and Fearing the Unknown


As children we often fantasize and romanticize about what our life would be like as adults. We often envision amazing things for our adult selves, i.e., an adoring family, perfect partner, wealth, big house, career, friends, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of people will experience multiple challenges, pitfalls, and failures during their journey through life, making it difficult to move on. Sometimes, many of us that have experienced multiple setbacks will become fearful of trying something new, or venturing beyond our comfort zone, as it serves both positive and negative purposes. Intense fear or uncertainty can make the process of change nearly impossible to manage. Fear is also one of our most powerful emotions. Although, fear can serve as a vital protector in some situations (i.e., escaping from a real threat danger or death), it can be a crippling obstacle when it keeps us from reaching our goals.

The thought of making a significant or even small life change can be so intimidating that even though you want to be the master of your own destiny you’ll end up doing nothing or settling for less than you deserve simply because you’re so afraid of that change. We fear change because we have no frame of reference in which to use that would indicate what would happen, could happen, or how we will be impacted. Fear of change is unique as our fears are based upon things and situations that are unknown or untested. Fear that goes untreated or is not confronted will build and intensify. For some people, fear can become crippling, preventing or limiting one’s opportunity for a more fulfilling life. Intense fear of change can flood your senses, making it difficult to focus on anything else but the impending change or the fears resulting from a previous change.

7 Essential Reasons We Fear Change:

  • Fear of the unknown. We fear change because we do not know what to expect or how we will be effected.
  • Fear of Failure. Often when we venture outside of our comfort zone, feelings of inadequacies or past failures can set in.
  • Fear of success. Marianne Williamson has written that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
  • Loss of control. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory.
  • Concerns about competence. Are we qualified? Are we deserving? Change is resisted when it makes people feel stupid.
  • Self-doubt. When you’re contemplating making a life change you’ll usually begin to doubt whether you are up for the challenge.
  • Fear of loss. Loss is often a part of change. Change can mean many different things to different people. Change can mean moving away from the place you have lived your entire life, the loss of a partner or spouse, the end of a friendship, change in careers, etc.

7 Strategies That May Be Used to Negotiate Change and Overcome Challenges:

  • Identify and isolate fears
  • Develop a deeper understanding for the basis of your fear
  • Try not to agonize over past decisions as they can be turned into teachable and educational moments.
  • Set realistic, achievable resolutions
  • Don’t resolve to change what you can’t control.
  • Explore additional options as there is more than one way to get a job done.
  • Look for the good and or positive in the change or changes that have been already made

Fear of change is one of the most common reasons for resistance to change because it stops you taking any action at all. Although, you may think that by taking no action at all you have prevented failure you have also prevented and or limited the opportunity for successes and happiness.

Gravitating Towards the Familiar and Fearing the Unknown

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2016). Gravitating Towards the Familiar and Fearing the Unknown. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Oct 2016
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