Fear as an important emotion

English language has a word for every kind of fear. Look at the following weird words for weird fears. If you are afraid of wine, it’s oenophobia. Fear of train travel is siderodromophobia. Misgivings about one’s mother-in-law is called pentheraphobia. If you are afraid of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, it is arachibutyrophobia.. And finally the fear of fear is called phobophobia.

Fear is a universal emotion. There are fears of all kinds – the fear of darkness, fear of being alone, fear of snakes, spiders & cockroaches, fear of examination, fear of open spaces (as in the latest Hindi film Phobia) and the list is endless. If nothing, there is the fear of the unknown. The first four fears are inherited from our ancestors. These fears are adaptations for survival developed by the cavemen. The cavemen cannot stay in a cave forever. He had to venture out and take risks to hunt animals for food. If they did not have the first four fears, they would not survive. Children, for instance, fear darkness and being alone. Infants will cry out of fear if left alone in a crib to sleep by themselves. The fear accompanied by crying is a mechanism by which they attract an adult’s attention and care. This was very important for survival for the hunter-gatherers. For the modern-day infant, this fear may be totally irrelevant. But still they exhibit fear since it was passed on to us through evolution. The fear of snakes and spiders also falls in the same category, although they are not relevant anymore for an urban dweller.

While evolution has given us wrong kinds of fears, the modern-day humans do not have fear where it’s important for their survival under the present day life style. For instance, we routinely see motor bike riders speeding past and disappearing in a jiffy. They also ride bikes without wearing helmets. It’s amazing that these guys do not fear speed nor do they fear not wearing helmets, knowing fully this can cause fatal consequences. Cops in Bombay are trying hard to make the youth fear speed. In one recent instance, the cops tried something novel to drive home the message strongly. They took several bikers to the police station and called a barber to shave their head completely. Even this humiliation did not seem to work. The youngsters complained later that they had spent a couple of thousand rupees for their hair style and that the cops were unfair.

Likewise, I do not understand the examination fear, especially for the mothers! Is this also an adaptation from our life-style of foragers or hunter-gatherers. (Hunter is the man and the woman is the gatherer of fruits and nuts). Of course there were no exams for foragers’s kids in the sense that our kids have today. However, they faced real life challenges as they grew up and their examinations were in the form of learning hunting skills at a young age for survival. In the modern-day too examinations pose challenges for survival. Anything that threatens our survival evokes fear as an emotion.

Here is a fear which tops the list of fears. Everyone would love to have freedom from fear, right? Not quite, as I gathered from my experience. There are people who fear freedom! No, I am not imagining. Years ago, I asked a competent young guy working in my department to apply for an opening outside our company since our company could not show much career progression for him. It was a position offering freedom and independence. To my utter surprise, he said no. Explaining further he said: “I am happy as I am. I am happy to do whatever you ask me to do”  Needless to say he never rose to a responsible position in his career. Here is a guy who fears freedom! Is there a word for it in English?




Published in: on May 29, 2016 at 1:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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