What is Fear? There are many scientific studies attempting to pinpoint this elusive term. Strangely, answering the question “what’s it good for” helps define it. It forces us to think about why nature created fear. Merriam-Webster™ defines fear as an unpleasant, often powerful, emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.
This website does not use that definition. Instead, here, fear includes all psychological reactions to a perceived danger. Those dangers may not be real. More often than not, they do not exist. When the brain perceives something as true, it does not matter if it’s false. It is the same neuroelectrical signal. Therefore, inside your brain, truth is only a perceived condition.
The primary causes of fear include:
- prior trauma,
- biology, [genetics, primitive brain, etc.],
- environmental factors,
- learned fears,
- manipulation, [the elephant in the room.],
- overprotective parenting, and
- social factors.
The biology of fear is far too complex to discuss on this website. However, the four normal responses to a perceived danger are attack, run, analyze, and hide. This seems incredibly consistent with the four personality types. Ralph Adolphs published an in-depth study in The Biology of Fear (2013) Current Biology 23, R79-R93.The links below open a page describing the most commonly encountered fears. Although there are only a few listed, they include the top ten listed in the Gallup™ Poll.
What It is Not.
There is a distinction between fear and those mental processes that can trigger fear, such as superstition, folklore, myths, and magic. Those cognitive processes can be based on the same elements of learned fears, usually false negative thoughts, discussed in each fear type.
But some of those mental processes can also be based on reasonable predictions of future events based on observations. For example, the superstition of “red sky in morning-sailors take warning” is based partly on historical weather observations, or “step on a crack and break your mother’s back” can refer to unstable ground such as a potential sinkhole.
This chapter teaches how to distinguish between them and use this knowledge to your advantage.
Sigmund Freud Observations.
The grandfather of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, divided the human personality into three parts, the id, ego, and superego.
The “id” deals with instinctive or primitive urges and is controlled entirely by the subconscious.
The “ego” deals with real-world actions and is controlled mainly by the conscious mind.
The “superego” deals with the imposition of morals by society. Both the subconscious and conscious control it. The superego is the primary source of the feeling of guilt. If you have ever felt shame, and we all have, we can thank the superego.
Differences between a Phobia and a Fear.
Phobias are abnormal and interfere with a person’s quality of life. For example, a person afraid of tight spaces is not the same as someone with claustrophobia. Since phobias require professional treatment, they are not addressed herein.
It is recognized that most people consider fear and phobia the same. They often use each word interchangeably.
Difference Methods for Reducing a Fear.
There are multiple methods available to treat or reduce these stresses. This includes:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (attacks the fears by repeated exposures);
- Treating the symptoms (drugs, suppression therapy, hypnosis, etc.);
- Knowledge (learning how to identify false negative thoughts);
- Manipulation (recognizing, avoiding, and dealing with being manipulated. The most significant cause for fear-induced stress); and
- Implementing Joy (adding Joy in your life to counter fears and the associated guilt, pairing a particular joy with fear, increasing the joy to fear ratio, etc.).