Anxiety is caused by our own expectations more than we realize. For example, a pothole in the road causes huge anxiety if you drive right into it, but if you see it in advance, it’s manageable. So anxiety is caused by the expectation of a flat road when that fails to fit the facts.
Of course, expecting potholes all the time would not relieve anxiety either. Realistic expectations are the key to a smooth ride. But how can our expectations be realistic when the world is unpredictable?
We can adjust old expectations for new information.
We resist doing this, however, for a good reason. Our brain evolved to hold on to old experience. It’s meant to protect us from having to touch fire more than once, or eat poison berries on a day when you’re hungry. But when old expectations cause anxiety, it’s good to know that you have some power to adjust them. To find that power, let’s take a closer look under the hood.