The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share

 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”- Franklin Roosevelt


Fear occurs when we anticipate something that we do not want to happen. The feelings of anxiety caused by fear are what experts call a standardized biological reaction. This is because we exhibit similar body signals in every fear-stimulating event like getting bitten by a dog, getting rejected, or when our taxes get audited.


Interestingly, there are 5 kinds of fears where all of our fears come from:


  1. Extinction—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist;


This is being scared of death. The thought of dying and even being at the edge of almost getting killed brings that panicky feeling. Even simple situations like looking over the balcony from the highest building stimulate fear in us.


  1. Mutilation—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure;


Naturally, our body reacts defensively when our fingers are about to get cut or get caught by the door, so all the more, the thought of our body getting invaded or losing any body part and function. Our anxieties about animal attacks, the tiniest bugs, and creepy species came from this fear of mutilation.


  1. Loss of Autonomy—the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed;


We do not like being restricted, enveloped, and limited. We do not want to get captured and then imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise lose control in the circumstances. This can be experienced in tight spaces and even in relationships.


  1. Separation—the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness;


No man is an island. We are social beings. Our search for companionship, love, and acceptance is among our goals in life to be happy. That is why silent treatments devastate us or losing a loved one is one of people’s greatest fears.


  1. Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the self;


Being accepted and our sense of belongingness is very important to us; that is why we do not want to get embarrassed in situations. We do not like being rejected; we do not like being in the wrong.


These 5 fears are the bigger umbrellas of everything we are afraid of. Try thinking about your simplest fears and then use these to understand where the fear is coming from. You will realize that these fears make a lot of sense. For instance, fear of speaking in front of an audience can be classified as ego-death; or fear of commitment is under loss of autonomy; fear of leaving your partner amid an abusive situation falls under separation.


By extension, other emotions can also be rooted in these fears. For instance, jealousy can be tracked from loss of autonomy, separation, and ego-death. Even shame and guilt can be embedded in these fears, too.


Fear can also be the cause of anger. Oppression, for example, in history, has become an object of rage by various races, which led to rebellion and war. This obviously is from fear of ego death and loss of autonomy. When we get angry, we also send the message that we fear losing something, and the action that led to the fear caused us to get angry.


Our body reflexes operate because of our fear of extinction; hence survival instincts kick in when a situation arises. We continue to learn, relearn and unlearn these reflexes over time.


We also experience situations wherein we instantly avoid things. Turning down party invitations, canceling appointments, staying quiet to avoid conflicts, and hesitations to ask for a raise at work—these avoidance reactions are our reflexes to what they call memories of fear.


Knowing our fear and the causes of such can be treated as information, so we can manage them accordingly. In the book of Timothy, it is said that “…we were not given the spirit of fear but of power and love and instruction.” We are more than conquerors, so these “fears” are our ways to make the right choices and be conscious and cautious of the repercussions of our actions. Articulating the sources of our fears can help us overcome them rather than having these fears control us.

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