A few years ago, we visited my late mother-in-law’s summer house in the village of Saittas.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a black snake near the balcony entrance. In this alarming moment, it was my mother, the most fearless and wise among us, who bravely and promptly dealt with the snake by smashing its head with a nearby rock.
Our initial shock was swiftly allayed after learning from a local farmer that black snakes in the area are generally harmless. While our primal fear of snakes is deeply rooted, and won’t easily be shaken off by mere information, the experienced farmer’s valuable piece of knowledge can help ensure that encountering a black snake in the mountains of Cyprus may cause less fear and terror in the future.
Our negativity bias, namely our tendency to see threats where there are none, serves a basic evolutionary function: to help us stay alive. It is always safer to assume that the rustle in the bush was caused by a tiger (and run) than the wind (and stay). Except if we have credible information that no tigers live in the forest (or that the occasional black snake roaming there is harmless).
This story, among others in my book, underscores the powerful impact information can have in reducing anxiety and fear. To further illustrate this, here are three brief examples:
Public Speaking: Fear of public speaking is common, but with the right research and preparation about the topic at hand as well as by becoming familiarised with the venue, technicalities concerning the stage and the audience in advance, a speaker can map out the pathway towards successful delivery in a more effective way. The more information gets collected and gathered through proper preparation and diligence, the less the surface of the ‘unknown’ and the better able the speaker will be to transform anxiety into effective and confident communication.
First-Time Parenthood: The uncertainties of new parenthood can be daunting. By accessing resources, seeking advice, and learning about child development, new parents can transform overwhelming anxiety into confidence and joy.
Career Transitions: Changing careers can be stressful due to the unknown. However, researching the new field, understanding the required skills, and seeking mentorship can replace anxiety with a sense of preparedness and excitement.
We are all inherently information foragers, driven by an insatiable curiosity. Jordan Peterson, a renowned psychologist, describes information as ‘meta-food,’ highlighting its essential role in navigating life. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ This emphasizes the importance of not just receiving information, but also developing the ability to seek and utilize it effectively.
“In-formation” literally informs us; the more we understand and comprehend something by unpacking it, the better in-formed and equipped we become to overcome and deal with it.
In conclusion, whether through books, conversations, or personal experiences, information is a key tool for overcoming fear and uncertainty, empowering us to make informed decisions and approach life with confidence.
P.S.: For more stories and insights on the transformative power of knowledge, as well as on the impact of multiple biases on our perception and lives,I invite you to explore my book “The MARVEL of Happiness: Principles, Stories, and Lessons for Living Fully,” featured in Gold Magazine’s “Top 10 Books To Read” List. This book is a valuable resource for anyone looking to enrich their personal and professional life. Discover more at The Marvel of Happiness.