Fear has been my greatest motivation to start looking into myself, I ´ll talk more about that in another post, but for now let´s just say I have trouble sleeping though the night. As the intellectual that I am, I start writing about fear and I feel the need to go to the internet and see what the formal definition of fear is. However, this time I´ll try a different approach, I will write out what fear means for me before I look at the scholarly views on it. The way I see it, there are several layers of fear.
The first and foremost is the fear of physical danger, that is, the fear that something or someone will compromise the physical integrity of the body. Here I´ll include fear of heights, fear of speeding vehicles, fear of sharp objects, fear of dangerous animals… Some physical fear is actually healthy as it prevents us from getting into potentially dangerous situations. This type of fear is instinctual and leads to self-preservation. For example, a healthy fear of heights will keep you from getting too close to the edge of a cliff where a mistake could cost your life. The same thing applies to fear of snakes, as it is known that some snakes could kill a person. Now, physical fear becomes a problem when it morphs into a phobia, something irrationally strong, but this is no longer the physical fear that I´m talking about in this category so I´ll discuss it later.
The second kind of fear I see is also physical in nature, but it is fear that someone you care about will have a physical accident. This fear speaks of attachment to others, you are afraid you´ll lose someone important in your life or that something bad will happen to them. It is different from loving others as love holds no attachment, but fear and attachment definitely go together.
The third kind of fear is the fear of rejection, be it by co-workers, a partner or spouse, or even yourself. This is the type of fear that causes group cohesion, meaning you adapt to the group so that the rest of the members will not reject you. I think in our instinctual selves this fear used to be physical in nature. In the time of the caveman, few could really accomplish by themselves all the hunting, gathering, nesting and defense needed to survive. For centuries, before transport and communication existed, being cast out of a family, dwelling or village meant death on most occasions. Nowadays there is still a physical factor in that we need at least some acceptance to be able to hold a job, rent a house, etc… For children it´s more important as they are completely dependent on their caretakers, so acceptance by them is key for survival. Fear of rejection is of a physical nature at any rate that a dependency on another person or institution determines survival or upkeep of certain comforts. On the other hand, this fear of rejection has evolved into the constant, unnecessary, need for approval by others, even others who have nothing to do with our survival.
Now the more complicated types of fear are the ones that are psychological in nature. The first of the psychological fears is the fear of the unknown, it is more abstract, but it can still be related to the above mentioned physical fears. Some examples are, a new situation that might cause you to be rejected, fear of failure (rejection), fear of change, or fear of death. That which we do not know causes fear. We do not know for certain what happens after death, so we fear it. So far, this is still a ‘healthy’ fear as it instills caution that should be directed at maintaining the individual´s and the group´s physical integrity.
A note here to point out that all fear starts out in the psyche, the mind, however the physical fears mentioned before are instinctual responses born out of the drive for survival. These types of fear either inspire caution in order to avoid dangerous situations or they cause a physical discharge of adrenaline to help us deal with a present dangerous situation. In short, fear is an instinctual response that is healthy when maintained within it´s natural range.
Next I will write about the psychological distortions of fear, such as phobias, and where I believe they have their origin…