Why do we have irrational fears?
Iam sure I’m not the only one in China that has met foreigners who are irrationally picky about their food and constantly question the quality. They are very skeptical toward local production and Chinese cuisine. So, instead of buying the fresh milk from cows in China, they buy the ultra-preserved milk from Australia, South Korea or Austria. Instead of buying the seasonal fruits that are available from China, they buy very expensive imported products. Instead of indulging in the local cuisine, they only eat what they know from back home. Why? Because they have irrational fears about crops grown in China.
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have irrational fears. Sometimes they are a bit weird but mainly funny. Take mine for example. I am scared of dying of thirst. That’s why wherever I go I have at least a liter of water with me. But sometimes irrational fears can really keep a person from living their life to the fullest potential. One of my friends is scared of flying that she tries to avoid it as much as she can.
Another friend is scared of planning vacations and trips, so she barely ever goes on holiday. Recently she decided to go on a trip but wouldn’t book her hotel and flight until the night before. Imagine how much money she wasted because of fear? My boyfriend is another good example. Despite loving to ride bikes back in Europe, in Beijing, he refuses to use a bike even for a few meters. He says he is scared of getting into an accident. Sure, the situation on Beijing’s streets is more chaotic than in Germany, but one can get used to it very fast. No matter how many arguments I make, his irrational fear of getting into an accident while riding in the streets remains!
But why do we have irrational fears and where do they come from? It’s probably a combination of various factors. For example, my fear of dying of thirst. Maybe as a child, I once woke up very thirsty and didn’t have anything to drink close to me. Combined with a movie or a book that tells a story about dying of thirst, an active imagination can result in irrational fears. Our brain can connect different events and feelings that have emerged independently of each other, so harmless things can suddenly scare us.
Irrational fears can erupt suddenly in adulthood, but they are most likely connected to something that happened to us as a child that wasn’t processed. They can also emerge from very stressful or emotional experiences, such as a painful separation.
If your fears limit you, there are therapies to help you learn how to overcome them. Sometimes it also helps to address them slowly. For example, if you fear groceries or cuisines from China, try buying them one at a time. So maybe one day you buy a pack of fresh Chinese milk and try it and see that it does not harm you. The next time you could get an apple from a street vendor and so on. This way, you could get used to local products and realize that they are nothing to be afraid of.