I have some bad news for you: You may be wired for fear.
But if it makes you feel any better, it's not just you. It's all of us.
Our minds are prewired to react more strongly to negative information than positive information. This makes sense from an evolutionary psychology perspective: Negative information may mean threats to our survival, such as predators. This is the reason that when a stranger gives you a nasty look it stays on your mind longer than when someone flashes a smile at you. This natural bias towards focusing on the negative becomes even more pronounced during times of uncertainty. When we don't know where to turn, anything that seems potentially dangerous grabs our attention and activates our primitive survival instincts.
The fight or flight system is quite useful when you are facing a specific physical threat, but it is not helpful when you are facing general uncertainty. Uncertainty, however, is the nature of life. None of our futures are guaranteed, which is why we need to make the most of our lives by making the most of ourselves, even, and especially during times of uncertainty.
In fact, during uncertainty our survival instincts can actually steer us in the wrong direction and can quickly make the situation worse. What is needed during periods of uncertainty is not this primitive instinct toward biological survival, but rather the capacity to use our higher brain centers to imagine a different future.
As a clinical psychologist, I often see patients who experience intense, runaway anxiety at just the time of a triumph or when things are about to turn for the better. Giving into the fear of the moment is both psychologically unpleasant and socially contagious. When other people see, or sense, that you are afraid, they focus on their instinctive reaction to seeing your fear and begin to experience terror themselves. Societal fear can quickly create an environment where your fears can come true simply by people behaving as though they are true.
Imagine that all is not lost. Consider the ways that the future might actually be better than the present or the past.
When I am with a patient who is in the grip of such a panic, I suggest following these three steps in order to shift from fear to faith:
Your imagination is your greatest cognitive gift. The ability to imagine a different and better future is the first step toward creating one. By recognizing, refocusing and re-imagining your circumstances you will feel better in the moment and shift from fear to faith.