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What are the underlying, universal fears present in humanity?

I believe that a lot or arguably all of our actions are dictated by fear in one sense or another. I want to better understand this and find a way to address and minimize those fears instilled in people. What do you think the underlying fears across all demographics and cultures are? For example, fear, loss, death, pain, the unknown?

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    Feb 26 2012: Hello Jordan! What a GREAT question! You know, every now & then (and sometimes even rarer than that) you run into a person that seems to give you the answer to questions no one else could. Well I ran into this person for a short time and he gave me an answer to your question that I will never forget. I fought the answer in my mind, but I lost. He said to me (and a bunch of other students) at the root of all fear for mankind is the reality of our unknown death (when/where/how/why). In addition to that, I also believe our fears come from the reality of knowing we are NOT in control of the "bigger picture" which includes death, but also the external occurrences (other people's issues, attitudes, responses that cause wars, deaths, job losses, hate and the likes) and internal occurrences (physical & mental ailments beyond our control) that render us helpless in our own lives as well as in the lives of those we love and care for.

    On a cultural level, I did a lot of studying of other civilizations during my undergraduate degree and found the anxieties about death and the reality of how in control we "really" are to be the same but expressed quite differently. I found religion (or a belief system) to be the most effective way, throughout all these civilizations and societies, to buffer these anxieties and fears in a way that helped people cope and continue.

    Sometimes I wonder how long humanity would have been here if we did not have the cognitive abilities to allow for belief systems?
    • Feb 26 2012: Hello Maranda! What a GREAT answer! That really ties together what I've been trying to get my head around. The idea of our unknown death has an integral role in developing all fears. All fearful actions and response are moving towards self preservation, which is something that would be innate.

      It could be argued that a huge pull for religion is its ability to help people deal with this fear. Seeing as there are so many people all looking for relief from these fears and belief systems have a way of relieving that fear. You're right as well, without the cognitive ability that allows to belief systems I don't think the humans would have been a very memorable species.
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      Feb 26 2012: Hi Maranda.
      I think you nailed it. The cure ?

      John 3:16-17 (NIV)
      [16] For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

      Simple really

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        Feb 26 2012: Good afternoon Peter! During my focused study on the many wonderful civilizations and societies that have walked this beautiful Earth throughout time, I learned a lot about what was at the root of the whole of mankind in relation to fears, anxieties, desires, and needs. The motivations that kept that "root" alive were intricately constructed belief systems that were created in a way that “fit” each civilization and society. It is really amazing and wonderful to see how creative mankind is in his ability to “survive” something he knows so little about and has very little control of.

        Our belief systems give us a sense of control over the unknown (not necessarily our own control of a situation, but a sense that something is in control), whether it is science or religion, they both assist man overcome anxieties and fears and they are both needed for such.

        The measure of what we don't know, will ALWAYS outweigh the measure of what we think we know. If that doesn't humble us, what will?
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      Feb 26 2012: That´s why I say that every man (even an atheist man) has a little faith inside. Because faith, hope is what's left in the middle of our fears
  • Manue M

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    Feb 26 2012: I would say that fear of death is probably the most universal one. Fear of dying and even greater fear of someone close dying.
    • Feb 26 2012: That is true. At the same time that also crosses over into being a fear of the unknown seeing as the most universal fear is a fear of "the great unknown". Which refers to the fact that what happens when you die is completely unknown.
      • Feb 27 2012: Sure, this is why, people who had a positive NDE are usually not afraid of dying anymore after that experience.
        I am not saying that afterlife is proved, just that positive NDE have a life changing effect on people.
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    Feb 27 2012: The things we fear are pretty straightforward, including death and taxes.

    I see a lot of fear coming back to the evolutionary drive to survive and reproduce, which covers off fear of emotional, physical and social damage.

    We fear pain. We fear losing our health. We fear death.
    We fear losing our position in the social hierarchy. We fear situations that make us feel lower in the heirachy.
    We fear our stuff being taken. We fear losing our loved ones.

    It gets interesting when it moves beyond ourselves.
    We fear harm to our loved ones.

    A lot is related to losing stuff or association with physical or emotional pain.
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    Feb 26 2012: Hello Jordan. In regards to your statement "I want to better understand this and find a way to address and minimize those fears instilled in people". I think one way to assist people in overcoming paralyzing fear and supped-up anxieties about the inevitable is by helping them find a sense of meaning. Meaning about their role within the Earth, their role among millions of other humans, their role in their localized lives, and their role as a person that will one day not walk this Earth.

    I have always believed that each individual that comes onto the Earth, has a role, a place, and a reason to be. The difficulty is overcoming the lies upon lies that have plagued mankind within his mind and in the environment around him. Those lies that tell us that our lives are worthless or that we are here for no reason at all. Or that age-old question, "What's it all for?" These are difficult to assist someone in understanding unless they can find their own meaning for being here.

    What do you think? This is such a delicate topic. I am also very interested in finding effective ways to address these fears in people.
    • Feb 27 2012: I think you're right on all fronts there Maranda. A strong sense of meaning helps an individual to develop character traits that enable them to overcome that fear. Traits such determination and courage. Without a strong sense of meaning an individual would have less to ground their beliefs and principals on. It could be said that this then shows through in their actions where, for example, one person avoids another for fear of confrontation.

      Another thing I wanted to bring up in regards to the nature of fear is how it is arguably always future based. It is impossible to be afraid of the past because the past doesn't exist anymore and never will again, barring time travel. You can, however, be afraid of something in the past catching up with you but that would be a future based fear seeing as it's only going to be a threat in the future. Whether or not fear is experienced in the present moment is something that I am unsure of. For example, if you were just about to be stabbed you would be fearing the impact which is a few moments in the future. Your fear would generated by a future event. Then once you have been stabbed those fears turn into pain and shock and your fear then becomes focused on the future again. Fears such as, getting stabbed again and fearing for ones life.
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        Feb 28 2012: Jordan, I thought about your response all day yesterday. I was stuck at " Whether or not fear is experienced in the present moment..." The person that I mentioned before that gave me answers to questions no one else did, also gently opened my conditioned mind up to the reality of the objective and subjective nature of TIME. So after mulling around in your response above, I began to think about the what the present is (but a moment) and how CAN we overcome future-based fears that will always be there? The only thing that I kept coming back to was our EMOTIONS. Our fears are always future-based, but do you think it is our emotions that cause us to "stay" in the present with these fears? Instead of moving forward through these fears?

        So when we take control of these eMOTIONS, we are better equipped to live in the present moment with less fear about future events that may be only seconds away. (Not sure if I am effectively communicating what I see in my head, but I am trying.) What do you think?
        • Mar 3 2012: Sorry I took a while with my response here. I've been trying to find more ways of looking at this. The idea of future based fears interrupting ones present moment and thought patterns does suggest that we are in a sense a slave to our emotions. Meaning we don't have control over this, a reaction that's occurring in our own minds. When looking at this objectively it almost becomes absurd that we have fears at all. And it's all because of our emotions taking control of our thoughts. Our thoughts become our words and our words become our actions.

          In terms of over coming fear I don't think that there is any way of directly addressing it. There's too much going on at the root of it that must be addressed first before anything else can happen. The only cure for crippling fears that I can see is self mastery. Or at the very least control of ones emotions. It all happens in our thoughts, which are influenced by our emotions. Taking control of your emotions means taking control of your thoughts and so on until in trickles over into your actions. Only once you are in control of your emotions you can get rid of any fears that are plaguing your existence.

          What do you think? Does this make much sense?.