Fear safeguards your life in the time of danger. It keys up your nervous system and speeds up your heart. It increases the flow of your blood and increases the sugar supplied to your muscles. All these prepare your body to meet danger and to respond to the fight or flee instinct. Without fear to alert these defenses, few, if any, people would live beyond childhood. They would fall victims of disasters they could have avoided if fear had warned them when danger appeared.
Primitive fear in a baby protects it before it realizes what danger is. Experience teaches you other types of fear as you grow older. You are careful in crossing streets because you fear the danger of passing vehicles. Most people don’t swim in deep water alone. They have learned of the danger of drowning if they are seized with cramps. All through life, you associate certain events with danger. You feel fear when any of these events confronts you. This is natural fear – a response to meet the danger of a threat to your life.
What are instilled fears?
A small child is instinctively startled by the noise of a clap of thunder. He is also curious about it. The mother must explain what thunder is and there is no need to fear it. Then electrical storms will hold no fear for him. Suppose, however, the mother is also afraid of storms and shows her fears to her child. Then, influenced by his mother’s response, he will associate thunder with danger. All through life, he will probably get jittery when lightning flashes and claps of thunder fill the sky.
Experience teaches you that some instilled fears are necessary parts of training in safety. However, you should be sure that these fears relate to real dangers and not prejudices. The suspicion in which many adults hold people who are different from themselves is passed on to children. Small children don’t recognize these differences. To them, all people are good.
Anxiety – Intensity fear from internal causes
If you are threatened by real danger, you can do something about it. You can defend yourself, withdraw from the danger, or adjust in some other way. This positive action relieves the tension fear has caused. This is an external fear. The cause is real and outside of you. When you remove the cause, the fear disappears.
Quite different is the internal fear we classify as anxiety. No external cause for fear is present in the case of anxiety. The fear stems from impressions of past experiences, stored in the unconscious mind. These impressions were unpleasant and, no doubt, caused intense fear when they occurred. The person would like to forget then and, in many cases, it would seem that he has. Still, they remain as vivid impressions in the recesses of the unconscious mind.
Problems of anxiety
Anxiety states range from mild to extremes conditions. All of us experience anxiety to some degree at some time. When you understand the reason for the condition and, especially, how to overcome it with conscious effort and self-control, the problem becomes less terrifying.
However, some anxiety states become acute. A person suffers constant fear or guilt feeling, depending on the nature of the episode or experience in which the anxiety is rooted. Nearly everything he does relates, in some way, to the anxiety. When anxiety dominates the entire personality, we say that a person is suffering from anxiety neurosis.