Scaring away our fears

Fear vs danger

“Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them…

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…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. 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.

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.”

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

When we 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.”

From The (Only) Five Basic Fears We All Live By

FearFrom Comic Relief


49 thoughts on “Scaring away our fears

  1. Very interesting, thank you 🙂

  2. kalabalu says:

    Fear is is felt

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Hm, not everything we feel, hear or see is real. Sometimes I like ‘replaying’ my favourite tunes in my mind – I can ‘hear’ them in my mind and can tap a beat with my foot, even though the tunes are not ‘real’. People with Charles Bonnet Syndrome see things which are not there. People who lost a limb sometimes experience “phantom limb syndrome”, when they feel an itch or other feelings in the limb which they don’t have anymore. These are just a few examples…. 😉

      • kalabalu says:

        Ah! nice examples. When you feel..and it is not it normal or special case?

      • Otrazhenie says:

        I think, we all can find examples in our lifes when we felt something that was not ‘real’. In most cases we know, that what we feel is not real (e.g. when I’m replaying my favourity tunes in my mind, I know that they are not being played in ‘reality’). That’s pretty normal I would say. However there are also plenty of more special cases, when people start getting confused between what is real and what is not. Paranoia is a good example of that. In paranoid schizophrenia people can hear voices confirming their paranoid feelings and they do genuily believe that these voices and paranoid feelings are real. Check out a godo article on paranoia at

      • kalabalu says:

        You are giving examples of medical instances..and the tune you replay..means you heard it before..its from your memory that is not a “feel” it is a thought..but feeling is when your instincts get alert..
        Reality is..that fear is real 🙂 when fear grips..your energy level gets high and you react..

  3. Thanks I spent a long process facing my fears tonight. The battle isn’t half over, but at least I started it.

  4. Zkye says:

    After Earth..

  5. Wildfire8470-KAS says:

    Well researched and said. More people should make mental health available to the masses in layman’s terms.

  6. aspenlinmer says:

    Very interesting, thank you for sharing.

    I would love to know more about what your own experience with fear has been like?


    • Otrazhenie says:

      I’m a very fearful person, especially when it comes to my children being in any danger of being hurt or injured. I found ‘fear of extinction’ to be the hardest to deal with, when it comes to people dearest to my heart. What about you, Aspen?

      • aspenlinmer says:

        Good question,

        I have classified fear into two categories.

        1. Those fears and anxieties we deal with on a daily basis (what i call Boggarts…a Harry Potter analogy)


        2. Terrors that are out of the ordinary but can have an extreme effect on us (what I call Horcruxes…also from Harry Potter)

        In the past my experiences were mostly with normal fears but after living overseas I experienced a terrifying event that led me into PTSD. Since then it has been an interesting journey for me. I find the subject of fear to be quite complicated and often misunderstood…

        You can check out my essay about it here ( if you want…but no pressure of course. 🙂


      • Otrazhenie says:

        Enjoyed reading your critique of the religious notion of fear as promoted by most Christian churches. If a gun was pointed at our son or daughter’s head the thought of turning to the shooter and saying, “I am just going to release my fear to God right now,” sounds not only absurd to me but even cruel as it does not recognise extreme pain as well as fear experienced by parents when their children are in danger.

        Similarly, I could never understand the fatal love of suffering promoted by lots of Christian churches. Mother Theresa expressed that view when justifying the absence of proper medical care in her missions : “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion”. A few months ago I wrote a brief post on that at

      • aspenlinmer says:

        Thank you for the link to your post. It was a very interesting concept that I hadn’t connected before.

        You are really right. These things (helping in other countries, setting up foundations, and telling others to “release their fears”) are so often done with good intentions but they can really do a lot of harm.

        Perhaps it comes out of our American desire to “have an immediate result.” We want to say something that will “fix it quickly.” Set up a foundation that looks good, or tell someone how God wants them to respond…when in reality it is much more complicated than that. I have another essay about “Responding to those in Pain” that I am going to post soon. I would love to hear your opinion on how to respond to people who are suffering.

        You really have some good ideas. Thanks for sharing them!


      • Otrazhenie says:

        You are raising some very good points about aid, Aspen. Have you read “Rebel with a Cause” by Ray Avery? He provides a very good analysis of various aid initiatives and how they can bring more harm than good if done without good understanding of the complexity of the problems. I published a few excerpts from his book at

        I’m looking forward to reading your essay about “Responding to those in Pain”. Please let me know once it has been published online.

      • aspenlinmer says:

        Thank you,

        You are very kind. Providing aid is something I think about a lot…and after my experiences I have discovered it can be a lot more complicated than one would hope.

        I have not read “Rebel with a Cause.” It sounds like something I should look up. What did you enjoy about it?

        I have posted my essay (here’s a link about Responding to those in Pain. I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences.

        Thanks for the great resources.


      • aspenlinmer says:


        And thanks for the link. Those are some great quotes. I am going to ponder them…and I’ll comment some more.


  7. Theresa says:

    Excellent! Extinction and mutilation are the easy ones here; it’s the others that linger and leave invisible scars. [Other than, obviously, death…] They take much longer to heal.

  8. malootka says:

    Reblogged this on truthionary.

  9. Truly, thanks for writing on Fear. Its a topic I’ve dealing with and your blog is helpful. I bookmarked it so I could come back to it. And I saw your post about mothers and fathers, good stuff.

  10. Andy Neville says:

    Excellent post. I really like the part about seeing fear as information and how we can use that information to control our fears, instead of the other way around. Well done.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks, Andy. I liked that perspective on fear. Also I found that identifying the common 5 fears that form the basis for anger, hatred and a range of other negative emotions is very helpful. It makes dealing with these negative emotions more manageable.

  11. Hm… To my mind fear is real. Very often the object of our fears is spurious.

  12. Nice post.

    I heard recently (I can’t remember the source) that we all have only two emotions: fear and love. What is loved can never be feared, and what is feared can never be loved.

  13. Ajaytao2010 says:

    Very deep and extremely profound thinking
    it is almost a spiritual post dear very beautiful
    I loved the post and thank for posting it

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Glad that you liked it, Ajay. Writing this post helped me to understand my fears better. Hope, it will help some of my readers too.

      • Ajaytao2010 says:

        yes dear indeed it helps everyone
        but I fine it spiritual in a broader sense
        and understand fear and overcoming it
        is the ways to self realization
        to be ready to go into the unknown
        and venture ceaselessly to find the truth
        this post was indeed spiritual

  14. dweezer19 says:

    I like it. Same concept as in my book. Only Love is real. Fear is the catalyst for most ego responses. I just try to delve into a theoretical idea of where that Fear originated and what is at its core. My favorite scriptural verse although I am no longer affiliated with any particular religion, “There is no fear in Perfect Love.” Thanks

  15. kindadukish says:

    Fear is not a choice………………

  16. annibloggt says:

    thank you. so true and just what I needed right now.

  17. This was a very intriguing and thought provoking read. I have been surfing your variety of giggle monsters to neuroscience; definitely the kind of eclectic company I would like to seek.

    Thank you for reading my post, I really appreciate it.

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