What we really fear...

30 December 2016

We all manage stress differently. Some have an uncanny ability to trust in the universe that it all works out. Their blood pressure never seems to rise. God bless the “Type B’s” as they are usually proven right. But for many, especially the highly driven ones such events lead to a measure of anxiety. Whether it is a simple trip to the airport or a visit to the doctor’s office all of these anxiety nidi can be distilled down to one singular underlying theme, the fear of the unknown. And the airline industry along with medicine seem to be the last two trades to enter the modern era of alleviating the unknowns.

The unknown is what creates our greatest of anxieties. It is not necessarily the occurrence that we fear it is the anticipation that keep us churning. Whether it is death, darkness, divorce or our bags not making it to their final destination we fear the “what if’s” of these events happening. And the fear of what may happen steals us from appreciating the beauty of what is happening.

Admittedly, the mysteries of the unknown can be the sweetest juices of life, “Will we kiss?” “Will she marry me?” “Will they like me?” “Will I perform well?” Will we win?” If there were no unknowns, life may be comfortably predictable but awfully boring. But, the unknowns are also the greatest sources of anxiety and when we can govern them we gain relief. Ironically, though upon the unknown becoming known we immediately lose the fear that was building up to it. I’ve witnessed friends contract cancer, go broke, lose their jobs and be sued and what is most remarkable is that they adapt and cope with the problem head on. They are probably the better for it. And stronger, in fact once the feared event becomes a reality an immunity to it develops. If you have fallen off a horse multiple times you fear falling less. However, the reliable reward doesn’t alleviate the subconscious from generating anxiety prior to the event becoming a reality. Therefore, we do our best to reduce anxiety by peeling away the layers of the unknown

It is the reason we watch videos of vacations resorts before making reservations, why we peruse review sights before purchasing and surf dating portals before a date. It is a lot easier to back out before jumping in and to be swiped left is a lot less painful than a hair flipping pirouetted wave off.

And when examining 2 of the most commonly used technological advancements over the last decade, a common thread is woven through them both, the reduction of the unknown. GPS has reduced the anxiety of getting lost. Uber reduces the unknown of commuting. The driver’s location, name, rating, cost, type of car and ETA are all readily available well before you meet the driver. And looking toward the future in all industries, the pioneering explorers are poised ready to lead us with technological advancement geared at reducing the unknown.

However, in medicine we seem to be lagging behind. For aesthetic medicine specifically demystifying the unknown is a critical next step in our evolution. The greatest barrier to attracting more patients is overcoming their fear of not knowing what they are going to look like afterwards. They ultimately fear looking “unnatural.” Secondarily they fear pain and thirdly they fear bruising and swelling. If any one of these “unknowns” could be alleviated more people would be interested in visiting our offices. Interestingly as many experience clinicians know on the rare occasion when a patient’s fear is unfortunately realized most of them cope with it well often becoming a loyal patient. Assuming the doctor is attentive to their needs. However, it doesn’t negate that if the unknowns of looking unnatural, pain and morbidity could be reduced aesthetic medicine would grow exponentially. While focus groups fail to identify this premise, (keep in mind Henry Ford or Steve Jobs both detested focus groups. Ford famously quoted as saying “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”) Most focus groups of patients conclude the greatest hindrance to undergoing a cosmetic procedure is the price. But this is the easy response and we can think beyond and bigger. The natural progression of cultural advancement is trending toward alleviating the unknowns, I would suggest to reduce anxiety and prepare for the next generation we should focus time, energy and resources toward discussing, studying and eventually eliminating the feared unknowns.

by Dr Steve Dayan

 

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