First of all, I’d like to thank all of you who left intelligent and interesting comments on the other thread that I started about having a conscience. In my last response to Xtine, it occurred to me to wonder if my experience of what I thought of as fear is for the most part common. The relative absence of what’s known as a conscience in my psychological makeup is most certainly different as I’ve discovered. However, Xtine reminded me that I once heard that fear and anxiety also play a part in the development of moral emotions like guilt, which led me to wonder if perhaps what I think of as fear is also very different from what most people experience when they are afraid. So smart people, if you would indulge my curiosity yet again, can you share with me and the rest of the class what fear and anxiety feel like to you and what role fear plays in your life, if any. Whenever I’ve experienced an increase in my heart rate and pupil dilation within the context of a direct physical threat, I’ve believed that I was experiencing fear. I also believed this is how everyone else, for the most part, experiences it as well. I still think that outside of some physiological variation, I am correct. The variation I refer to would include shortness of breath, chest pains of some kind, feelings in the stomach and sweating. I never had these symptoms the couple of times I was directly threatened. In those few instances, I was instinctively calm, lucid and in control of my behavior. But to repeat myself, I’ve assumed that outside of those who suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder, my experience of fear is common. Is my assumption accurate?
Thanks ladies and gentlemen and thanks Dr. Robert for providing this space for communication.
Well, Fear to me feels like an impending doom. As if the entire world I experience will end. But most fundamentally, that I will lose control of my own mind functions and go insane.
for example, I have a very bad anxiety when it comes to becoming insane, or somehow different from others.
for example, Dr. Robert directed me to this forum because I had an extreme fear of being psychopathic, since I have many of the action traits (lack of focus, manipulation, pathological lying), although I once had empathy as a kid, it slowly dissipated, leaving me terrified by this (although now, after reading some of his questions, I know that Dr. Robert says diagnosing psychopathy by actions isn't a good idea, as the focus should be on what you feel--and I do feel guilty when I do things, it just takes a back seat due to me being apathetic to almost everything now)
and while I'm not sure, I guess I can say much of my fear is linked to an inherent responsibility to society.
As a child I grew up being told I should help people, although by the very nature of my abusive home, I should've been helping myself. that has left me deeply scarred mentally, and now I fear a great many things, due to a constantly precarious state of mind.
And it's not traditional fear in that you see a spider, and want to get away from it, or even fighting another--it's fear that's more related to being what society would consider a "bad" person, someone who is worthless, someone who cares only for himself. Thus, that might pinpoint my irrational fear of being a bad psychopath, if I truly care that much about what the rest of society would think of me.
If fear is linked to a sense of responsibility to society, it would make sense why you feel it in a different way than I do. Your assessment of anxiety seems interesting, as (correct me if I misread your post) but I didn't think people with psychopathy had it, but that is the way it generally feels for most normal people, sweating, shortness of breath, etc. as it sounds like the precursor to a panic attack.
the fundamental difference is, normal people feel fear outside of the context of losing things that belong to them or direct physical threat. for some reason, if Cambodia (which doesn't affect me) was to be violently attacked, I'd still feel afraid, just by putting myself in that situation, if that makes sense.
Perhaps, fear is an extension of empathy?
Thank you for your response, Stephen. I’d typed up a response but somehow it disappeared. I’m annoyed. Oh well, life goes on…
I assume your particular brand of anxiety isn’t common, although I suspect being afraid of being a “bad person” is. Yet another thing I can’t quite get. I also wonder how common it is to be genuinely feel fear for people you don’t know, per your Cambodian example. Also, as I asked Xtine, I wonder if there is a difference between the physiological sensations associated with fear and fear itself. I’d assumed that you felt what you felt in your body, your brain labels it as fear, and that was the end of that. Perhaps there is something else though. You imply (and Xtine flat out said) that there is. If so, what is it and how do you distinguish between the physical sensations, the story the brain attaches to those sensations, and this extra thing called an emotion?
Maybe fear is also connected to empathy, although I’d imagine that the primary basis for fear is the self preservation at multiple levels. As a matter of fact, it is my belief that fear is one of the primary human drives. It’s so fundamental in fact that most people aren’t even aware that they are driven by existential fear. No matter how noble they think they are being, no matter how brave they tell themselves they are, in the end existential fear is at the heart of their deepest motivations. That’s my theory anyway.
Those sensations I mentioned in my OP were things I’d read about in relation to feeling fear. I know about the increased heart rate and the pupil dilation, but the rest of the sensations are alien to my own experience. I never sweat when feeling what I thought of as fear, for instance. I don’t shake, I don’t shiver, my breathing doesn’t change and so on. And sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between fear and excitement. It physically feels the same to me.
One final question. What are you doing to handle your anxiety? What specific techniques are putting into practice to assist you with it?
It interests me that you focus on the physical aspects of fear. I could be wrong, but my belief is that things like raised heart rate and pupil dilation are not a part of "fear", which is too abstract a concept to be described in pure terms of the body, but come about because of the adrenal response to physical threat. When we perceive danger, we have a purely mechanical response which has more to do with the "animal" aspects of us than the "human" aspects - although, the two should not really need to be separated.
So, as I said, it is interesting that you should focus on the physical side of fear. Your description of fear sounds like what I feel when I go freestyle skiing or allow my sociopath boyfriend to handcuff me to things, partake in thrill-seeking activities. Increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and the feeling in the stomach is a fun mixture of dread and excitement. People seek adrenaline because it provides a rush, and the physical symptoms are mad fun, but they are just a part of fear. Not fear in and of itself.
I don't really know how to describe fear, just as it is difficult to describe guilt. Until recently, I just assumed that these were things everyone has, part of being human, but I see now that this isn't true. Fear is, I think, an intense emotion that is felt both in the mind and in the body. Yes, it is the product of hormones, but it is more than that. When I am scared, it is not always in response to a direct physical threat. Sometimes I am scared for other people. I suppose guilt does have its roots in fear - I guess many empaths live with a permanent sense of fear that they might hurt another person, something we don't generally want to do, and that is a large part of why we do things that are of no benefit to ourselves. Fear, I think for me at least, isn't just physical within myself - it involves a general sense that things are wrong, the world isn't a good place for people to have to live, that there is something important at stake which doesn't necessarily have to be anything to do with myself.
I remember trying to explain guilt to my sociopath, once. The conversation went something like this -
"You know guilt is physical for me? If I **** up, hurt another person, I physically feel it. I feel sick, I feel pain, I can't cause pain in others without actually feeling it myself."
And the response - "that's stupid. Why is it like that?"
When I say to him "I am scared" and he responds "I am scared too", I will know that we are talking about different things, because my fear seems to tap in to something other than myself, something that exists externally of my body. I can't explain it, really, but in response to one of your questions about the role that fear has in my life -
I fear for myself, everything and everyone I love, and humanity in general. It motivates me to be as good as I can, for their sake and my own, and to do nice things for people and make them feel better about things, be there whenever I can so they don't feel lonely, because I don't like being scared and I don't want anyone else to have to be scared.
And there, I think, is the difference between the way you and I will ever experience fear.
Just so you know, I spent half an hour writing out a thoughtful and detailed response, and then accidentally deleted it instead of submitting. I am now irritated at the internet, and, what with me being an inherently lazy person, you're going to have to suffice with the sparknotes version.
Firstly, yes, I do thing the difference in the way fear is experienced is a major part of the different cognitive functioning in a sociopath. This study - http://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/news_details.php?news_id=1137&year=2009 - I'm guessing you may be familiar with this one? Showed that "psychopaths" showed very little brain activity when shown pictures of scared faces than "healthy people". I suppose it is a part of the brain that doesn't function typically, but I think, once again, it is more complex than that.
And I wouldn't turn off this part of my brain, because to be honest, I think that would make me so lonely.
What you say about the "inner policeman" is so typical it is almost endearing. Yes, I do fear social rejection, and anyone who believes that they do not often steer towards "right" because they want to avoid guilt would be in denial - but, as you have probably observed, we humans are very good at lying to ourselves. I don't like wrong. I don't like being wronged, I don't like seeing people wronged, I don't like the idea of people suffering in general. I don't want to be good to people because of the negative implications (i.e. guilt) of acting otherwise, but because I want good things for other people. There is no policeman. There is just me.
As for being with a sociopath - there is so much to say on the matter, and nothing at all. I'm guessing you understand what might be positive about the relationship - the thrill, the charm, the ability to make me feel special/ I think the thing to say about it is that I have little doubt that he loves me as much as he is capable of loving anything, has never been anything except adoring (at least intentionally, this far) and genuinely cares for my emotional well-being. He puts me above everything in the world except himself, which is more than most people can say of their relationships.
There are negatives, of course. Partly, it's incredibly infuriating when he does things to hurt myself or others and doesn't even realise that his actions might upset people. He will do or say something, and I will be shocked or hurt or disgusted, and this will upset him, so I have to try to explain everything to him in terms that he can understand. And he is upset that he has upset me, because he doesn't like doing that, but still doesn't feel guilty about it. It's incredibly frustrating - sometimes I get a feeling that I'd be better off drawing sadfaces and smileyfaces to express how I'm feeling than use my actual emotions.
I suppose I would see things differently if I were older. I'm nowhere near an age where I should be considering finding a life-partner. I understand that the relationship will not end well, that due to his nature there is nothing permanent about it.
The truth is, that I love him for what he is and how he makes me feel. Which is something I never thought I would be able to say about a sociopath. And it's difficult, and challenging, but he makes me feel alive, which to me is really quite refreshing. I have accepted that this probably means there's something wrong with my own psychological make up. I'm not sure. It's tough and amazing. I'm having fun.
Anyway, glad I can offer some insights. All of this just fascinates me, really. Out of interest, how do you handle romantic relationships with empaths? I shared, it's only fair that you do.
Hey Hannah, nice to have read your input, you're smart. I too await Daniel's reply to your question.
Good thread. Nice writing, Hannah:
"it sounds terribly lonely. A bit like a game of hide and seek where you never get found - sure, you win, but everyone else has gone outside to play while you're savoring your victory in a laundry basket."
i just wanted to add my thoughts about fear.
fear is a thing you need when you get out of your comfort zone. but its an emotion, that you can transform into some kind of having high energy. fear is a thing that developed and protected us when we were cavern humans, we wanted to go for some food for our family, but there was a big lion there outside, and the fear was the thing that helped us to survive and not being eaten by the lion. later we used that fear to get angry, smarter, stronger and kill the lion. also in some cultures you used to get murdered when you took a woman from some group. so the fear was the thing that prevented you to get murdered. that fear in someway got into our genetics and we live with it.
but now things are different, but the fear is still there. the purpose of the fear is not longer there in a lot of things (basically what im saying is that the fear helps you survive) nothing is going to happen if you talk to strange people (most of the time).
I did something today that could get me into a fair amount of trouble if I had been caught and I won’t be going into any details for obvious reasons. I wasn’t caught of course. But I noticed that my body was doing the slight increase in heart rate thing and I had to take deeper breaths. I also noticed the thoughts that appeared within my mind while these physiological changes were occurring. I asked myself if I was feeling afraid? I sat with it for a moment. The answer was no because there was a sense of pleasure as well. I decided that I was excited by the exercise of freedom I was experiencing while deliberately breaking the rules. It’s akin to duping delight. I can see how one can get “addicted” to the rush that comes with playing outside of the rules. I can also see how people might think of me as “fearless” if they did what I did today and all they ended up doing was taking a couple of deep breaths in response to mild excitement.
My reason for bringing this episode up was to emphasize the increase in heart rate and change in breathing I experienced, which I used to associate with fear. Now I think those symptoms are just generalized, all purpose arousal signs, which, if I understand the others who contributed to this thread correctly, is not fear as it is commonly experienced. Fear appears to be a far more complex experience than the basic fight/flight/freeze (FFF) response. It is this complexity that I (and perhaps you?) am missing. Then again, I also suspect that how those base physiological responses show up vary from person to person depending on his/her genetic makeup. If fear is more than the basic FFF response, then one could say that for all practical purposes, “we” are fearless. I said that before in a previous comment, but I don’t know if I believe that. After all, I still experience physical changes in the presence of a perceived threat. That’s good enough to call fear I think, even if the complex cognitive aspect is missing. So my tentative conclusion is that this is the real difference between those without much of a conscience and those who have normal consciences with regard this question. We are missing whole levels of rumination in relation to fear and quite frankly our FFF response dial is turned down in comparison to the norm. Not off. Just down.
Anyway Diego, I think your comments are for the most part on point, although I would merely add that the roots of fear must extend further back in our evolutionary history since many other animal species exhibit physiological signs (FFF response) that we associate with fear also. And I also think you are correct to point out that the original reasons for installing the FFF response in all of us are no longer operative in modern society. Fear is useful to be sure, otherwise none of us would have it.
god did created FEAR. what i DOES be interested is BE that you cans WIN fear with other EMOTION does you THINK that be? THEM does like LOVE or ANGRYNESS and then yours can even BEND steel sometimes if you DOES gets angry enough.
what YOUR opinions is?
Seriously Lega, comprehending what you are saying is difficult. So I am going to go ahead and translate what I think you are saying and respond to that. You are saying that god created fear (easy enough). Then you move to ask if fear can be managed and/or overcome with other emotions. And perhaps you are concluding with a question about the strength of other potentially overpowering emotions, like love or anger.
What is my opinion? Obviously I do not believe in any kind of god. Emotions have their origin, like everything else considered human, in our evolutionary history. Believing in a god and evolution is not necessarily a contradiction in terms, by the way. It often is in practice, however. Do I think fear can be overcome using other emotions? You know what? I don’t think so. I think a person can rapidly switch between emotions, like anger or excitement and fear, but I don’t know if the fear response can be completely turned off using other feelings. I’m talking about the basic FFF response and not anxiety or lighter versions of fear. And finally, are other emotions stronger than fear… Actually, I’d say no for the most part. My guess is that no emotion overcomes fear once it gets going because nothing truly overcomes our natural instinct towards self preservation. Fear is tied to our will to survive at almost all costs. And by self preservation, I am also referring to the genes. Genes are what survive from one generation to the next in the form of copies and to that end, parents and other relatives are programmed to at least be willing to sacrifice themselves to preserve those copies (children).
your DOESNT actualy believe in that EVOLUTION JUNK? you should READS this
AND also in MINE parts LOVE and ANGRYNESS can overcomes fear. for EXAMPLES when i DID watched one HOROR movie and where did BAD MENS killed people i did THINK scared but then i DID thinked they be ACTUALY just SAD peoples who done gotted HURTS. then i did NOT scared anymore.
and ONE TIME when did peoples WITH KNIFES tryed robbing PEOPLES i did SCARED first but then i DID thinked their is gona DO that SAME things to everyone and GETS very angry and kicked their ASSES and did gived them to POLICE.
What a trip
He's going to "cure" you.
You're infected! Like a zombie.
What if we get possessed by the devil? Can that be cured? Or wait... perhaps we are?
your DOSENT be INFECTED or does be DEVIL possesed. YOUR does spirit has HURTED and that MUST does HEALED. sory i DOESNT know how else to EXPLAINS it but you MUSTS believes me. ACTUALY does one CAN says your DOES be posesed by the DEVIL but it not actualy POSESSED by devil only DOES in SYMBOL.
if YOURS dosent interested in CHURCH or OTHER RELIGION THING then maybe DOES talks to YOURS family about it? i DOESNT knows if that DOES helps as well as THEM talking to GOD does but maybe does GIVES it try?