Exploring the Fear Factor in Human Psychology

Fear means so many different things to different people, that it is impossible to define it in one simple statement, even though it is considered the most influential emotion in the history of mankind. This dreadful emotion is based on the feeling of tremendous agitation and anxiety that there is danger right around the corner. And in earlier days, this same fear saved our lives and was a wake-up call to danger, based on our biological defense system. Fortunately, this basic feeling of fear is still programmed into our nervous system for a reason, and is considered essential to our instinct for survival. Fear alerts us and helps protect us, considered a natural element of human nature.

But this balance can be broken with trauma or abuse, turning a healthy emotion into a destructive one. In 1919, an article titled, “A lecture on the abuse of fear instinct in early education,” by Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D., wrote about how children achieved well by fear of punishment. Thinking during these western, progressive settlements of the United States, related to lying and stealing being a natural instinct of the human animal, forcing children in those days to be spanked upon being weaned. Children were seen as a “little beast, a kind of young ape, at best a little savage,” and were trained by the command of superior force and fear.

Ask any psychotherapist, and they will tell you that detrimental fear originates in deeply buried dark secrets, along with unknown terrors of the psyche that had their origin back in the earliest days of childhood. This is the number one reason most clients leave their sessions, terminating before their pain can be brought forth enough to feel the fear and pain again, as a ray of truthful light will destroy the darkness that has become so comfortable and safe. This comfort somehow realizes that exploring the psyche will uncover the reasons for the fear and pain, allowing it to dissolve.

This makes no sense, but we need to understand that as children of abuse or trauma, from the very beginning we have learned to survive to the point that we are on automatic pilot with our defenses. Without them, we would have been unable to survive-they have become our friends, and our allies. This pattern is now the only unconscious constant in our lives, and the thought of actually changing our life for the better becomes absolutely terrifying to us. So this “fear of the unknown” becomes our God, our unconscious teacher, as it is all we have known for safety and security. We become resistant to any type of change as depression is anger turned inside out, therefore, unconsciously, we choose to embrace the depression and an unknown behavior based on fear.

To sum it up, fear covers all areas of life-considered healthy and unhealthy, with Euripides, a Greek poet in 480-40 BC, phrasing “When death comes around, nobody is willing die and old age is no longer a burden.” Fear of death, fear of life, fear of leaving home, fear of staying home, fear of getting old, fear of eating, fear of not eating, fear of flying-and the list goes on, and on, and on, with the base of it being fear, with a dead-end street right behind it. Yet if used properly, fear can save our life or that of our children, and help us develop healthy relationships with the right type of person. Our instincts are based on fear, based within our “gut” area. This gut instinct is on a “need to know” basis at all times.