Why Do We Fear Change?

Navigating the caverns of uncertainty engulfing our personal and collective growth

Martin O'Toole
3 min readMay 20


Fear: our self-cultivated barrier to fulfilment.

Fear, that primal emotion stirred up by uncertainty and change, has a stranglehold on our personal and collective evolution. Why do we fear change? Why do we fear the unknown? These crucial questions reverberate in our minds — or at least, they should, for anyone keen to master their mental and personal development. Our inner “Monkey” (ego) uses fear to keep us tethered to our Comfort Zones, oblivious to the breathtaking spectrum of possibilities that materialise when we dare to challenge the status quo and confront the unknown.

Understanding fear

Why does fear matter? Well, fear acts as a potent blocker, stymieing personal growth and obstructing our ability to embrace change. Why are we so afraid of change, and why does the unknown instil such dread? Because ego capitalises on this fear to keep us in a state of complacency while paradoxically operating under the assumption that it’s keeping us safe. We hesitate, procrastinate and avoid, ultimately robbing ourselves of a fulfilling life. The irony is that we often postpone facing our fears until it’s too late — until we’re blindsided by the abrupt sting of impermanence. And in extreme cases involving death, such pain can damage us beyond our wildest dreams.

The roots of fear

Our fear of change and the unknown finds its roots deep in our neurological landscape. At its core, it’s an evolutionary response to perceived threats. Housed within the primitive Limbic System of our brain, the Amygdala sets off alarm bells whenever danger lurks. This “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” response floods our body with hormones, preparing us for literal action. The “Lizard Brain”, as it’s also known, is primed for survival — it dislikes uncertainty and recoils at the prospect of failure.

This resistance to uncertainty, the fear of the unknown, is accentuated by our societal, familial, and religious conditioning alongside accrued personal experiences. The result? Metathesiophobia or fear of change. This fear can manifest as fatigue, depression, anxiety, physical pain, and stress, culminating (in extreme cases) as fear paralysis.

Conquering fear

So, how can we outwit our inner “Monkey”? How can we quell the fear of change and our terror of the unknown? It begins by understanding that fear, as overwhelming as it may be, is a learned response and can thus be unlearned. This starts with developing the courage to acknowledge the loss inflicted by our fears. Maybe we’re scared to express ourselves authentically or entertain fresh ideas because we fear the unknown. Perhaps we resist opening our hearts to love due to past hurt. But no matter the nature of the fear, recognising it as the thief of our fulfilment is the first step to reclaiming our lives.

The next steps can vary. For some, it might be a cautious toe-dip into uncharted waters; for others, a fearless cliff-dive into the unknown. Whatever the approach, each step taken is a win worth celebrating.

Remember, confronting fear doesn’t mean being fearless; it means fearlessly navigating through our fear of change and the unknown. So why not view change as an opportunity for growth rather than a harbinger of danger? Why not summon the courage to enter the “cave” and seek the treasure that awaits? How can we hope to die well if we rob ourselves of a fulfilling life?

Taming our Monkey is about challenging the stories we tell ourselves, daring to step outside our Comfort Zones, and embracing the change that leads to growth.

So set aside the basic idea of surviving. It’s time to tame your Monkey and embrace thriving amid the unknown. Embrace change, and in doing so, write your own “How to Die Happy” story, fearless of the prospect of a blank page.



Martin O'Toole

How To Die Happy author, podcaster, and mental health advocate writing about healing and the Anatomy of Happy.