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Fear of Trying

Those of you who are familiar with my podcast, Tales From the Jazz Side, will know that I have a fascination with fear, or more specifically, all the things big and small that scare us. And on that show, I talk with artists about those fears in relation to all aspects of their lives as creatives navigating those deep subconscious waters.

My ongoing fascination with this topic stems from the fact that this is an eternal age-old dilemma experienced by every living thing. The word that I like to associate with one of the root causes of our fear is the word – change.

Whether we say we are comfortable or not with change, the truth is that we are all fearful of change on some level. It presents an unknown, unknown.

List of things that change:

  • People’s opinions and beliefs
  • Weather conditions
  • Political systems and leaders
  • Technology and scientific knowledge
  • Economic conditions and markets
  • Relationships between people
  • Physical appearance and health
  • Environmental conditions
  • Laws and regulations
  • Social norms and cultural practices
  • Personal interests and hobbies
  • Education and skills
  • Language and communication
  • Attitudes and behaviors
  • Values and priorities
  • Business strategies and models
  • Geographic and demographic factors
  • Global events and trends
  • Historical accounts and interpretations
  • Spiritual and religious beliefs.

Broken down into a simpler specific list: 

  • Job
  • birth or death of family member
  • getting married or divorced
  • aging
  • retirement
  • becoming an adult
  • moving from a location where you have lived for over 40 years 
  • living in another country

The post today isn’t specifically about change itself, although it plays a huge part, mostly it is around the effects of change and the strong emotions that come up when confronted with it. In this case, I am writing about the fear of trying something new. How many times have we encountered a situation in our lives where in order for us to accomplish a task or move forward on a project, it required that we do something we have never done before?
Yes, there are situations where we are forced to do something different, requiring us to improvise out of necessity and jump right into the situation. No easily recognizable choices to make… oh, oh….As they say sink or swim.

But what of the conscious act of trying something that we have never done? Is this what daredevils are all about? I know people who engaged (with thought) in very scary activities, at least to me they are scary such as jumping out of an airplane, cycling on a thin wire, and zip lining or free climbing.

These extreme activities are interesting and I’m sure exciting, although they are definitely not on my bucket list. For today’s post, I will touch upon the more subtle types, like learning a new technology, learning how to play an instrument, drawing, riding a bicycle or swimming. Learning a language,  how to play chess, raising orchids or just doing something

different than you’ve always done. Eating at a different restaurant, trying food you’ve never had, listening to music that’s different than what you are used to, or listening to a person that you don’t agree with. All these things can be uncomfortable at the beginning. We are stepping out of the proverbial “comfort zone”. 

According to various psychologists, there are many ways that fear is defined and they have assigned them all names and categories. The two we are most familiar with are fear, of course, and phobias.

A fear and a phobia are not the same, so it’s important to know the difference. Many people experience fears or aversions to objects or situations, but this does not necessarily mean that they would be diagnosed with a specific phobia. There are guides that provide diagnostic criteria for specific phobias. So is the fear of trying a “fear” or a “phobia”?

 The American Psychological Association defines fear as a rational reaction to a potentially dangerous event or object. Fear, for example, may prompt you to take cover during a severe storm or flee from a dangerous animal. Phobias, however, are irrational fears triggered by either specific or general events or items. I will ask again, So is the fear of trying a “fear” or a “phobia”?

To my surprise, there is a scientific category used to describe this type of phobia in particular. It’s called Neophobia – it’s fear of anything new, especially a persistent and abnormal fear. In its milder form, it can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break from routine. In the context of children, the term is generally used to indicate a tendency to reject unknown or novel foods. 

Upon more obsessive research, which is where I got my information for this post, I found that now I’m more confused than when I started. Perhaps some of these articles will help confuse you as well.

[https://www.nextstep.doctor/facts-about-phobias/ ]
[https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fear-of-new-things-2671892 ]
[https://www.verywellmind.com/diagnosing-a-specific-phobia-2671981 ]
[https://www.gadsdenregional.com/health-library/14 ]

Leaving the definitions aside, let’s dive into yet another aspect of trying something new. The strong emotions that connect with this type of fear or phobia, to be exact, being rejected or criticized, a topic that is very close to home and always lies beneath, hidden until an opportunity presents itself and we are made aware of our distressing, awkward and sometimes annoying feelings. 

Being an artist, one’s name can be more or less in the mouth of others who have their opinions about what something should be, how something should sound, or look. Sometimes it feel as though everything is a competition and in some cases, artists are forced into competitive situations. Even though I honestly feel that art or the appreciation of it, is purely subjective. The fact that we have professional art critics has always seemed a strange phenomenon to me. I think, who are these people? Yeah, they are given a title associated with expertise in a particular field, usually with the end game being to either influence people to partake or not partake of the banquet painstakingly prepared by the artist. The fact that they (critics) are also human beings perceiving an artistic event with their only reference point being their own experience, which is impact-fully colored by their perceptions does not escape my understanding of how difficult the task can be.  Perceptions are influenced by ethnicity, culture and environment. There will be some who will not agree with this statement and that’s perfectly fine because it is their right to have an opinion. But when your opinion becomes “expert”, well, I think we the public can develop a tendency to rely/trust less on our own experience as being true and authentic and in turn, begin to look to another to tell us how to feel about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to read reviews about movies or TV shows before I watch them. Half the time, I feel the assessment is accurate and other times, I wonder where were they emotionally before watching. I must admit that I will listen to critics rather than I would an influencer if I want a review of something.  

My conclusion: Whether someone is a professional in critiquing art or just the public experiencing the process, regarding your artistic life choice, it’s best to find something you love, commit to doing it and not worry about what others think.  

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

However back to exploring the unknown, unknown. Even knowing this in theory doesn’t make it any easier to try something new as an artist or for any other addition to my personal skills and knowledge. At 65 years I still become hesitant about new things but for most things, it lasts for about 10 seconds. For other endeavors, such as playing bass in front of people…. I’m still dragging my heels on. Is this a phobia? Am I being irrational? Yes probably. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m in the process of booking duo gigs where I play the bass and sing. I’ll need to get back to you on whether I actually go through with booking the gigs not to mention actually playing the bass on those gigs.

I was once afraid of people saying, "Who does she think she is?" Now, I have the courage to stand and say, "This is who I am."

Before I sign off, here is an interesting piece of information for you. Is there a phobia for fear of playing the bass or musical instrument? Wait for it……YES. It’s called Gakkiphobia [https://fearof.org/gakkiphobia/] Fear of the bass instrument….Bassolophobia [https://fearof.org/bassolophobia/]
What can I say there is a phobia or ‘fear of’ category name for ….everything I guess.

Learn to love and thrive on change

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