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Fear is a universal emotion shared by all living beings. Perhaps it is far more pervasive in human beings because of the mind's capacity to imagine things in relation to fear. Every emotion has its origin in thoughts. If there were no thoughts, there would not be any fear. Fear is always relative, it does not exist by itself. We are afraid of something real or imaginary. If only we understand the true nature of fear, we would realize that the fear is of our own making; what is made can always be unmade.
The often-quoted words of Franklin Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" have far more general applicability than just in the context they were said. The key to overcome fear is to understand its nature. This is, true for all emotions. The first step in using emotions to our advantage instead of detriment is to know them.
From a psychological perspective there is a mutual affinity between fear and darkness. Darkness implies ignorance in the sense that we cannot see anything, so we do not know what lies in there. This is perhaps the reason for a very widespread use of the phrase "fear of the unknown."
In reality, though, the unknown can never cause fear because fear arises from thoughts and thoughts are always in the realm of the known. The mind cannot produce anything that is totally unknown. So fear is not related to the unknown but to the possibility of the loss of the known. An extreme example is the fear of death. It is obvious that no body knows death. Knowing implies past experience and the very concept of past, present, and future vanishes with death. No one has ever come back to relate his or her experience of death. The fear is not of death itself but of losing what one has - the life and everything related to it. The fear is of the loss of the known.
Additionally, fear is frequently related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. It is worth noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening. All people have an instinctual response to potential danger, which is in fact important to the survival of all species. The reactions elicited from fear are seen through advantages in evolution.
Although fear is learned, the capacity to fear is part of human nature. Many studies have found that certain fears (animals, heights) are much more common than others ( flowers, clouds). These fears are also easier to induce in the laboratory. This phenomenon is known as preparedness. Because early humans that were quick to fear dangerous situations were more likely to survive and reproduce, preparedness is theorized to be a genetic effect that is the result of natural selection.
From an evolutionary psychology perspective, different fears may be different adaptations that have been useful in our evolutionary past. They may have developed during different time periods. Some fears, such as fear of heights, may be common to all mammals and developed during the mesozoic period. Other fears, such as fear of snakes, may be common to all simians and developed during the cenozoic time period. Still others, such as fear of mice and insects, may be unique to humans and developed during the paleolithic and neolithic time periods (when mice and insects become important carriers of infectious diseases and harmful for crops and stored foods).
Fear is high only if the observed risk and seriousness both are high and is low if one or the other of the seen risk or seriousness is low.
The fear of the end and its existence is in other words the fear of death. The fear of death ritualized the lives of our ancestors. These rituals were designed to reduce that fear; they helped collect the cultural ideas that we now have in the present. These rituals also helped preserve the cultural ideas. The results and methods of human existence had been changing at the same time that social formation was changing. One can say that the formation of communities happened because people lived in fear. The result of this fear forced people to unite to fight dangers together rather than fight alone.
If one were to look into religion, they would find that it is filled with different fears that humans have had throughout many centuries. The fears don’t just go on the metaphysical levels (including the problems of life and death) but move onto moral dimensions as well. Death was a boundary to people that is seen as a transition to another world. This world would always be different depending on how each individual lived their lives. The origin of this intangible fear comes from other sources that are not found in the present world. In a sense we can assume 'that fear was a big influence on things such as morality.
Neuroscientists and psychologists are making breakthroughs in helping people overcome fear. Because fear is more complex than just forgetting or deleting memories, an active and successful approach involves a person repeatedly confronting their fears. By confronting their fears— in a safe manner— a person can suppress the fear-triggering memory or stimulus. Known as ‘exposure therapy’, this practice can help cure up to 90% of people, with specific phobias.
" EVERYTHING YOU WANT IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR "
- Jack Candfield -
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