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The Psychology of Fear

Many optimistic philosophers have often noted that the two greatest motivators in history are fear and greed. Now, while the definition of greed can sometimes border on being a philosophical concept affected by culture and environment, fear is much more tangible and universally defined. Yet, despite the nature of it, people have generally been apprehensive about studying the psychology behind fear and the effects it may have on a person's mental health. Modern psychology, some analysts believe, all too often boils down to fear in some form or another. If this is to be believed, then fear might actually play a bigger role in shaping a person's psychology than any other intrinsic factors.

Fear, of course, manifests itself in a number of forms. For example, the ancient Spartans were considered fearless because of their fighting abilities, but the reality was far different. Raised in an environment where acceptance and embrace of the norm was paramount, the primary fear and anxiety that a Spartan felt was directed towards the idea of being ostracized. A man with a chronic inability to stay in a committed relationship might fear being loved, probably as a side effect of growing up unloved himself. Fear can also manifest as more solid mental health issues such as anxiety and phobias. Fear may also lead to someone developing a variety of psychological disorders as potential complications. The fact is, fear is more prevalent in our daily lives than anyone would care to admit.

In fact, people have a subconscious tendency to deny even the feeling of fear. Most people would prefer to shift their emotions to things like anger or depression, rather than accept their fears. This can be due to a number of factors, including environment, upbringing, and previous experiences. Most experts believe that the key to overcoming this problem is to recognize the fear as fear, rather than defining it as something that it appears similar to. People who have this problem often develop the fears they have during childhood, but rather than outgrow those fears, they have allowed them to remain rooted in their psyche. This may not necessarily damage mental health, but it can have some unwanted effects on how a a person interacts socially.

Of course, not everything about fear should be seen as a negative. It has been said that fear “is what separates heroes from the rest of us.” Fear also helps ensure the survival of the human race. Fear triggers many survival instincts that prevent us or cause us to avoid taking too many unnecessary risks. Fear also triggers the body to enter survival mode when faced with extreme danger, pumping large amounts of adrenaline into the system to give ordinary humans the near-superhuman physical abilities needed to survive certain situations. Fear prevents people from taking unreasonable risks that could endanger their current status, whether the risk is social, physical, financial, or sexual.

It is only when people fail to acknowledge fear or acknowledge it too much that it becomes a problem. Of course, this is easier said than done. Despite being a natural and integral part of the human psyche and survival instinct, fear is often derided by modern society as something that is unwanted or should be faced down. Literature and culture are filled with references to larger-than-life figures that literally feared nothing and took insane risks, which are things that are well outside the grasp of the average Joe. While there are some fears that are unreasonable and people should make every effort possible to cast them out, it is a good idea to understand that being afraid is not always a negative thing.

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