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Fear: Is it innate or learned?

Discussion in 'Psychology' started by The Hammer, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study
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    As a carry over from the death anxiety thread. Is fear of something a learned behaviour (particularly of death) or an innate one? Is it both? Is there a 3rd side that I am missing here? What are your thoughts?
     
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  2. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    If you haven't, @The Hammer , Kristoffer Hughes book on death and dying is written from a Pagan perspective and has some very good thoughts on this topic. His points that fear of death is learned is spot on, I think. He makes the observation that adults in our culture generally shelter children from the reality of death. This teaches them that death is something to fear in a very direct way.

    I didn't have that experience growing up, and my parents didn't try to hide death from me. I'm glad for that, because I have a much healthier relationship with this inevitable process as a result.
     
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  3. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member

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    I would argue that people generally don't fear death. We fear things that might kills us, but only because they'd usually also cause pain and suffering and we fear the practical impact of death on others, the grief and financial impacts it can have.

    Edit: To answer the actual question (albeit boringly), I'd suggest all of these things are a combination of nature and nurture. We clearly have some natural instincts to avoid "bad" things but imaginative intelligence and social structures significantly impact how we manage those instincts.
     
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  4. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    To add an excerpt:

    "Many adults will strive to protect children from the reality of death, and thus begins the descent into fear; a parent may unwittingly transfer their own insecurities or inability to articulate death to their offspring. But look to a child who has encountered death; they are far more accepting and resilient than we may imagine.

    ...

    So why do so many adults fear death so much, and why do many transfer this fear to children hidden under the veneer of "I know what's best for them, they shouldn't be subjected to death, they are too young" and similar remarks? They do so out of fear.

    ...

    We may assume that the fear of death is instinctive, a built-in device, but this is not necessarily the case, as the fear of death is not the same as the fear of dying.

    ...

    In the Western world, we have been taught to fear death. Death is bad, it separates us from the status quo, and it interrupts the flow of life; it causes us to feel emotions we can barely understand, let alone express. So the most effective way of dealing with it is to carry on regardless with a stiff upper lip and hope that it never returns to bite us on the backside. Invariably it does, and our relationship with death collapses into a heap of inappropriate coping mechanisms."

    From "The Journey into Spirit: A Pagan's Perspective on Death, Dying, and Bereavement" by Kristoffer Hughes, who works as Her Majesty's Coroner in the United Kingdom for something around 3 decades.
     
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  5. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study
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    This is good, I like this. I am going to see if any of my local Metaphysical stores carry a copy of this book. I was exposed to death at an early age (6) due to the passing of my Grandfather whom I was very close with. So I feel that I have always had a healthy relationship to the specter of death.
     
  6. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    I guess Heidegger would say that the fear of death is innate.
    I believe (imho) ...people are scared of the unknown that death implies. Not of death per se.
    :)
     
  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    To add, fear of death permeates Western culture very deeply but it's important to remember what this looks like. It's not necessarily some emotional state that is gripping you in it's clutches.

    A culture that fears death constantly strives to find ways to defeat death, ignore death, or otherwise bypass death.

    A culture that fears death doesn't accept it as a vitally important and fundamentally good part of the world but instead demonizes it as something evil and to be avoided at all costs.

    A culture that fears death does things like put people on life sustaining machines even though this defies rational sense.

    A culture that fears death shelters people from death as much as possible.

    There's more to it than this, of course, but I wanted to churn out a few examples. We can say we don't fear death, but on a cultural level, for most of us that just isn't the case. Even for me - and I am Pagan who on a religious level doesn't really believe in death in the sense of it being an ending.
     
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  8. Quintessence

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    I picked up the book when mom died last year. I worked with a grief therapist for a while too, but I wanted something from a Pagan perspective and had listened to an OBOD interview of Hughes about this topic before too. His perspectives as both a Pagan and as someone who has worked more intimately with death, dying, and bereavement than any of us is fascinating. I'm not actually done with the book yet. It's one of those books you want to take slow and give time to digest, I think.
     
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  9. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I think it's both. We don't have to say we are afraid of death for our bodies to react to what it can't process or prepare to adjust to whether flight or fright.

    I also think it's learned. A good example is when I read one of the biggest things people fear even more than death itself is fear of giving a public speech. I always found that interesting because I never had this fear even though my body does go a bit googly eyed. I like talking to the public. Anyhow. The physiological reactions-sweating, shaking, etc, the body doesn't say it's right or wrong to experience. It just does its thing. We-interpret what we experience as fear. But what if we changed that around. What about instead of fear we can say I am excited? The body doesn't know the difference. So we still have the same experiences we identify is fear but we can change it to excited instead to have courage to, in this case, speak to a crowd or whatever the case may be.

    Likewise, instead of saying we shouldn't have the physiological response to fear of death, which I believe is instinctual, we could change our perspective to something else that mirrors that experience but is not negative in itself. So it's not saying "we should not fear death" it's saying "it's natural to 'experience' fear AND we learn to interpret this fear in a healthy way." Not denying that the human body feels what it feels but at the same time not developing anxiety over it.
     
  10. FearGod

    FearGod Freedom Of Mind

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    If I told you take this pill and you'll die with no pain whatsoever, so you won't fear
    taking the pill because you know you'll feel nothing, will you take it or you'll
    fear of death regardless of the method.
     
    #10 FearGod, Oct 11, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
  11. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

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    Fear is an evolved response to a perceived threat. It is a survival mechanism - "fight or flight", the adrenal glands etc. So it's a biological response which leads to a behavioural change as a result of something in the environment. It's innate as in that's what the adrenaline is for, but it's learned in terms of it being an interaction with the environment. Perhaps some fear responses are innate after millenia of evolution, but others are clearly going to be modern constructions.
    All living creatures "fear" death as in they try to avoid it, but only humans wring their hands over it and write books on it. :D
     
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  12. Salty Booger

    Salty Booger Royal Crown Cola (RC)

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    It is natural to fear, but it is an emotion often exploited by others. I believe we are taught to fear, whether for ourselves or for those we love.
     
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  13. MNoBody

    MNoBody Well-Known Member

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    IMO some is innate since we have a whole archive of DNA that survived in the body physical, just as we see that there is no animal born that needs to go to school and learn how to be what it is, they just know a whole lot and fill in the blanks from there after they manifest [incarnate]
    Humans need to go to school to figure out what they are and how to be it, since somehow, despite being essentially animals in every way one could define.
    perhaps this is why humans are so terrifying to animals, since of all the animals man is the most confused and disconnected and doesn't listen or communicate...thus man feels animals need to be broken and trained to serve man.
    so, about fear, some is latent in the body and the rest is learned externally
    however fear isn't going to manifest first unless there is threat that appears, then the most placid baby becomes a fighting/flighty animal.
    Thanks limbic system.
     
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  14. Samantha Rinne

    Samantha Rinne Resident Genderfluid Writer/Artist

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    It's learned. I remember my mom freaking out about spiders and she reacted so suddenly that it scared me too. To this day I am afraid of spiders.
     
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