Fear is our most basic emotion because it is directly connected to our survival system and serves as the primary motivational energy for what we typically call “fight or flight”. All other emotions are either derivatives of, or secondary to, fear.
The best way to understand fear is to know that it is the emotion that always happens when something threatens or scares us: a large wild animal or snarling dog that charges you, an angry looking person that charges you or swings at you, an oncoming car in your lane, earthquake rumbles, a rock slide on a mountain by you, or any of a variety of other things that signal possible harm to us or our loved ones. All such threats put us in a primitive survival mode in which we react by instinct if we don’t have time to think or plan the best way of self-protection or survival, and every time this happens fear becomes the primary energy force.
During a threat situation, no other emotions exist, and anger in the form of aggressive energy comes only when we are denied escape or flight, and aggressive energy seems to result as fear energy converts to self-protective anger.
Clearly, fear and subsequent anger are essential for survival in all living organisms, including us, and it is, therefore, good. It only becomes self-destructive, and, therefore, bad for us, when we begin seeing danger in things that are really not dangerous and react with fear or anger when it is not called for, thus creating new problems for ourselves and others.
What makes us interpret benign situations as dangerous? Almost always, it’s the result of environmental effects on us: abusive conditions as we grow up, or threatening conditions in which we find ourselves. Prolonged periods of threat to our safety cause us to become hypervigilant, which in turn causes us to look for, and see, threats always around us.
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