Fear. False Expectations Appearing Real. Not a fun 4 letter word. According to Dr. Karl Albrecht, there are 5 universal fears that are shared by everyone. They are:
The fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is more than just a "fear of death" or how we might die - it strikes at the very heart of our fear that we would simply no longer BE.
Dr. Albrecht calls it existential anxiety. It's the panicky feeling we get if we look over the edge of a tall building, or when we think too deeply about a deadly disease!
Examples of triggers include: The dark, flying, heights, fatal diseases.
2. Mutilation or Bodily Invasion
The fear of losing a part of our body, having our body's boundaries invaded, or of losing a natural function. This would be any fear where we feel physically unsafe or under attack.
Examples of triggers include: In this pot would fall our anxieties about creepy crawlies like spiders or snakes, animals like dogs or sharks - and any animal you believe to be harmful. Also anxiety about crowds, needles, germs, surgical procedures, or having to make a trip to the dentist!
3. Loss of Autonomy
The fear of being restricted, confined, trapped, suffocated. As Dr. Albrecht puts it "the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control." When it's a physical fear it's called claustrophobia, but our fear of being smothered, restricted, unable to take care of ourselves or dependent on others can also apply to situations in our lives - or our relationships.
Examples of triggers include: Commitment, poverty, debilitating illness, aging. In addition, situations where we feel helpless or powerless, for example at work, your boss tells you to do something you don't want to do and refuses to discuss it with you eg. when you have to do it or lose your job. It leaves you feeling trapped and helpless. Most parents will also feel this fear from time to time - overwhelmed, trapped, and restricted because they have a responsibility (children) that can't be given up!
4. Separation, Abandonment or Rejection
The fear of abandonment, rejection - we humans have a strong need to belong. This is my biggest fear. From a young age I have feared upsetting people for fear of being rejected and/or abandoned. I even have a visual of floating alone in outer space, never to see another living being ever again! From an evolutionary perspective, when an early human was kicked out of the tribe, they likely would have died. Dr. Albrecht refers to a "loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else." which literally threatens our wellbeing and survival.
Examples of triggers include: When a relationship ends - a friendship, divorce, or death of a loved one. Sometimes when a relationship ends, we also lose an extended set of friends too, increasing that loss of connectedness. This type of fear can also be triggered when a relationship deepens and with that an experience of vulnerability - what happens if this person I rely on leaves me - so a fear of intimacy! An argument or disagreement with someone important to us - at home or at work. Also, have you noticed that when someone ignores us or gives us the 'silent treatment' this often feels worse than being yelled at? Triggers can also be less obvious - an extended separation, even a voluntary one can subconsciously trigger this type of fear.
5. Humiliation, Shame or Worthlessness
Dr. Albrecht called this type of fear, "Ego-death". We all need to feel lovable, worthy of love, and of value in the world order to have healthy relationships with others - and with ourselves. Shame can be an excruciating feeling - something many of us will go great lengths to avoid. Not only can it leave us feeling physically sick, make our skin crawl or flush, or in extremes give us stabbing pains, we want to crawl into a hole and disappear. When we are shamed and humiliated it can threaten or destroy our belief in our worth, our lovability, and our value in the world. Without that, we are nobody. Literally. The supposed number 1 fear of public speaking would fall into this category!
Examples of triggers include: Failure, criticism, bullying, victimization, mistakes, public speaking. There are genuine shame triggers like when we're caught in a lie or do something considered wrong by society. But, feelings of shame and worthlessness are often triggered be an expectation of judgment or criticism (from ourselves or others) when we mess up - losing one's job, or if we left our house unlocked and got burgled. In addition, sometimes when we are the victim - whether it's rape, bullying or slander, we are left feeling ashamed and worthless - literally worth "less". Finally, depending on how sensitized we are, debilitating shame can even be triggered by seemingly small things like forgetting to send a birthday card, being told we're selfish (whether it's true or not!) or burning the dinner.
How many categories do you fit into? When I first read some of the different types of fear, I didn't think a particular one didn't really apply to me, BUT then I read the triggers and yepper, I identified with it. Now we can take an honest look to see which ones we identify with. Now we have to figure out what to do about it. How to get over our fears. How hard will it be? Fear.
Or is that how to deal with fear? Huh, maybe I'll look into seeing if there's something better than that acronym.
Until Next Time....