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The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Parlay44 - 03-27-2012 12:06 PM

The (Only) Five Basic Fears We All Live By

http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainsnacks/201203/the-only-five-basic-fears-we-all-live

By Karl Albrecht, Ph.D. on March 22, 2012 - 12:36pm
President Franklin Roosevelt famously asserted, "The only thing we have to feah, is feah itself." I think he was right, actually.

Fear of fear probably causes more problems in our lives than fear. That claim needs a bit of explaining, I know.

Fear seems to have gotten a bad rap amongst most human beings. And it's not nearly as complicated as we try to make it.

A simple and useful definition of fear is:

An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation
of some imagined event or experience.

Medical experts tell us that the anxious feeling we get when we're afraid is a standardized biological reaction. It's pretty much the same set of body signals, whether we're afraid of getting bitten by a dog, getting turned down for a date, or getting our taxes audited.

Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information. It offers us knowledge and understanding - if we choose to accept it - of our psychobiological status.

There are only five basic fears, out of which almost all of our other so-called fears are manufactured. Those five basic fears are:

Extinction - fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it the "fear of death". The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxiety in all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.

Mutilation - fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure; the thought of having our body's boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. For example, anxiety about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.

Loss of Autonomy - fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or controlled by circumstances. In a physical form, it's sometimes known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to social interactions and relationships.

Separation - fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness - of becoming a non-person - not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The "silent treatment," when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on the targeted person.

Ego-death - fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.

That's all - just those five.

Think about the various common labels we put on our fears. Start with the easy ones: fear of heights or falling is basically fear of extinction (possibly accompanied by significant mutilation, but that's sort of secondary). Fear of failure? Read it as fear of ego-death. Fear of rejection? It's fear of separation, and probably also fear of ego-death. The terror many people have at the idea of having to speak in public is basically fear of ego-death. Fear of intimacy, or "fear of commitment" is basically fear of losing one's autonomy.

Some other emotions we know by various popular names are also expressions of these primary fears. If you track them down to their most basic levels, the basic fears show through. Jealousy, for example, is an expression of the fear of separation, or devaluation: "She'll value him more than she values me." At the extreme, it can express the fear of ego-death: "I'll be a worthless person." Envy works the same way.

Shame and guilt express the fear - or the actual condition - of separation and even ego-death. The same is true for embarrassment and humiliation.

Fear is often the base emotion on which anger floats. Oppressed peoples rage against their oppressors because they fear - or actually experience - loss of autonomy and even ego-death. The destruction of a culture or a religion by an invading occupier may be experienced as a kind of collective ego-death. Those who make us fearful will also make us angry.

Religious bigotry and intolerance may express the fear of ego-death on a cosmic level, and can even extend to existential anxiety. "If my god isn't the right god, or the best god, then I'll be stuck without a god. Without god on my side, I'll be at the mercy of the impersonal forces of the environment. My ticket could be canceled at any moment, without a reason."

Some of our fears, of course, have basic survival value. Others, however, are learned reflexes that can be weakened or re-learned.

That strange idea of "fearing our fears" can become less strange when we realize that many of our avoidance reactions - turning down an invitation to a party if we tend to be uncomfortable in groups; putting off the doctor's appointment; or not asking for the raise - are instant reflexes that are reactions to the memories of fear. They happen so quickly that we don't actually experience the full effect of the fear. We experience a "micro-fear" - a reaction that's a kind of shorthand code for the real fear. This reflex reaction has the same effect of causing us to evade and avoid as the real fear. This is why it's fairly accurate to say that many of our so-called fear reactions are actually the fears of fears.

When we let go of our notion of fear as the welling up of evil forces within us - the Freudian motif - and begin to see fear and its companion emotions as basically information, we can think about them consciously. And the more clearly and calmly we can articulate the origins of the fear, the less our fears frighten us and control us.


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Spike - 03-27-2012 02:56 PM

How about fear of success ?

I think i suffer from that one. I always procrastinate the things that will bring me success in some form. Its way easier to the same old stuff that you feel comfortable with.


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Moma - 03-27-2012 03:19 PM

(03-27-2012 02:56 PM)Neil Skywalker Wrote:  How about fear of success ?

I think i suffer from that one. I always procrastinate the things that will bring me success in some form. Its way easier to the same old stuff that you feel comfortable with.

I think that fear of success stems from a fear of autonomy and a fear of responsibility. When you are successful, you are free from control (relatively) and you have responsibility for your actions. You can no longer blame others for your shortcomings.


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - FretDancer - 03-27-2012 04:17 PM

Great post Parlay. It seems that some fears may be easily overcomed than others, even some sound impossible to overcome.


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Jalouse - 03-28-2012 12:23 AM

(03-27-2012 02:56 PM)Neil Skywalker Wrote:  How about fear of success ?

I think i suffer from that one. I always procrastinate the things that will bring me success in some form. Its way easier to the same old stuff that you feel comfortable with.

I think you could just call that one being lazy.


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Spike - 03-28-2012 03:28 AM

(03-28-2012 12:23 AM)Jalouse Wrote:  
(03-27-2012 02:56 PM)Neil Skywalker Wrote:  How about fear of success ?

I think i suffer from that one. I always procrastinate the things that will bring me success in some form. Its way easier to the same old stuff that you feel comfortable with.

I think you could just call that one being lazy.

I'm not lazy. i"ll have to dig deeper to sort this one out. Maybe its escapism


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - WesternCancer - 03-28-2012 12:34 PM

Great post Parlay.

Neil I think I know what you mean. For me at least I think it stems from something similar to what moma said. After you get success what then? Once you've completed your goals you have nothing more to accomplish. Maybe its a fear of not having anything to do which somehow relates to the fear of extinction ie. once you're done all there is left to do is die. Fear of ego-death could explain it if you don't want to be successful because you fear you may fail at one point or another


RE: The Five Basic Fears We All Live By - Jalouse - 03-28-2012 05:08 PM

(03-28-2012 12:34 PM)WesternCancer Wrote:  Great post Parlay.

Neil I think I know what you mean. For me at least I think it stems from something similar to what moma said. After you get success what then? Once you've completed your goals you have nothing more to accomplish. Maybe its a fear of not having anything to do which somehow relates to the fear of extinction ie. once you're done all there is left to do is die. Fear of ego-death could explain it if you don't want to be successful because you fear you may fail at one point or another

What is this bs? Like most people I also procrastinate, it's hard to get stuff done and conversely it is much easier when somebody is telling you to do it i.e in a job.

To turn this around and say you're not doing it is because you're afraid of achieving everything you want then having some sort of existential crisis about having nothing more to achieve is just kidding yourself.

If I told you that you could push a button and you'd instantly become a billionaire are you telling me you may not do it due to your fear of success?