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Fear

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Beginning with Freud's celebrated case of Little Hans, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists have been intrigued with the topic of fear. Eclipsed in theoretical writings by the term 'anxiety', fear remains a pervasive expression in day to day clinical work. Patients constantly talk about it. One implores that we cure him of his fear of dogs. Another offers the fear of aloneness as the rationale of her staying in a bad marriage. Yet another avoids all athletic activity due to the fear of physical injury. And a fourth one lives in utter denial of passing time to avoid facing his fear of death.Despite its ubiquitous presence, fear has received little direct attention in psychoanalytic literature. This book aims to fill this lacuna. It explicates various intensities of fear, e.g. apprehension, dread, panic, and terror. It delineates the boundaries between fear and anxiety and demonstrates how phobic states constitute an admixture of these two emotions. The book also deals with phobic character and the personality trait of cowardice.Individual chapters are devoted to six main fears of life that arise sequentially over the course of psychic development. These include the (i) fear of breakdown, (ii) fear of aloneness, (iii) fear of intimacy, (iv) fear of injury, (v) fear of success, and (vi) fear of death. Each of these fears is addressed by a distinguished psychoanalyst in a contribution written specifically for this volume. Elucidating symptomatology, psychodynamics, and treatment strategies, together these chapters and a final and synthesizing commentary upon them help enhance empathy and fine tune technical interventions with patients afflicted with fear of one or the other variety.

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Chapter One: Fear, Phobia, and Cowardice

ePub

Salman Akhtar

Fear is ubiquitous. All of us experience it at one time or another. The sound of footsteps approaching us from behind in a dark alley, an unexpected visit to the city morgue, eye contact with a large alligator in the zoo, and a precipitous “fall” of a rollercoaster can all give us goose bumps of terror. We shriek, scream, or simply become paralysed with fear. We readily recognise its dark arrival at the threshold of our hearts and feel its movement in our blood.

But do we understand the actual nature of fear? Do we know the purpose it serves? Do we agree upon the circumstances under which it is “normal” to be afraid? And, when does fear become abnormal or morbid? Is fear to be avoided at all costs or can this bitter gourd of emotion be transformed into a sweet mango of cultural delight? Questions like these suggest that fear is simple and self-evident only on the surface. Examined carefully, it turns out to be a complex and nuanced phenomenon.

Fear

Webster's Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” (Mish, 1998, 3 p. 425). While the source of the threat is not identified, the tone makes it clear that the danger referred to resides in external reality. Fear, in other words, is a dysphoric reaction to an actual object (e.g., a wild animal, a knife-wielding drunkard), event (e.g., an earthquake, a stampede), or situation (e.g., watching a horror movie, losing control of a car on an icy road) that is felt to be threatening. The extent of dysphoria in the face of approaching danger varies and four levels of fear's severity are identified in the English language: (a) apprehension, which refers to a mild anticipation of a bad occurrence; (b) dread, which blends the conviction that one is facing danger with a powerful reluctance to encounter the scary object or situation; (c) panic, which denotes an overwhelming sense of being scared, coupled with alarmed hyperactivity (e.g., pacing, running away) and physiological arousal (e.g., increased heartbeat, laboured breathing); and (d) terror, which signifies an extreme degree of consternation, a feeling of doom, “catastrophic aloneness” (Grand, 2002), and psychomotor paralysis.

 

Chapter Two: Fear of breakdown

ePub

Elaine Zickler

Since the posthumous publication of Winnicott's (1974) “Fear of Breakdown”, the phrase has entered into common parlance in the psychoanalytic literature, mainly in object relational writings, and construed loosely to indicate what, for more classical analysts, would be termed the “infantile anxieties” (Abram, 1996; Blum&Ross, 1993; Faimberg, 2007; Friedman, 1983; Mitrani, 1998; Phillips, 1988; C. Winnicott, 1980). In fact, its use has become a shorthand fora significant departure from Freud's theories of anxiety, based as they are on an edifice that has as its foundation the human infant's basic condition of helplessness and, in ascending developmental order, fear of castration, fear of loss of the object and the object's love, and fear of the superego and of loss of the superego's approval and love. By contrast, “fear of breakdown” is used to connote a “primitive agony” of disintegration of the ego and descent into a state of mind both pre-Oedipal and opaquely resistant to memory and subjective historicisation. It has come to connote fears of loss of ego organisation or fears of becoming psychotic (Bollas, 2013). It has, as a shorthand for both theory and practice, come to valorise and at times, reify, a notion of trauma that is always located in historical reality (as opposed to the Lacanian Real) and opposed to internal, or neurotic suffering rather than related to it by the complexities of time, memory, and fantasy. Winnicott emphasises the priority of this fear to castration anxiety, thereby foreclosing on the role of infantile sexuality and conceptualising the existence of an infantile state without even the retrospective organisation of Oedipal sexuality, such as Freud posits, and certainly without the notion of “general seduction” that Laplanche (2011) posits. Winnicott's essay, however, is tantalisingly ambiguous on a variety of important theoretical and clinical questions and exposes fault lines specifically in the areas of temporality, infantile sexuality, the possibility of trauma conceived as a universal “humanising” experience, and the question of psychoanalytic intervention as interpretation, construction, or re-translation. The fate of the concept of infantile sexuality will be an object of particular attention, as its theoretical foregrounding or neglect affects our understanding of all the other concepts—temporality, trauma, and the role of interpretation. This chapter aims to stage a conversation between Winnicott, Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche, using Winnicott's “Fear of Breakdown” as a point of departure for looking at these psychoanalytic problems and the directions they have taken with these important analytic figures and their heirs.

 

Chapter Three: Fear of aloneness

ePub

Peggy B. Hutson

Throughout life, fear of aloneness is an intermittent feeling in all people. It spells out the first and always present need in everyone, a need for safety and security. Symptoms due to fear of aloneness may occur with or without being attached to thoughts. In the early period of life, it presents as high anxiety and fear upon separation. When the infant is basically helpless, this alarming feeling of aloneness occurs upon even short separation from the mother (carer). From the toddler stage, a defining view of the early normal fear of aloneness is the scene of a lost child frantically crying in a department store. The feeling of safety and security is gone. The connection has been broken. Adults close by move quickly towards that child until one reaches him or her and connects. The others begin to look for the mother. And the mother, once aware that the child is not there, is frantically looking for her child. From their unconscious and conscious memory banks from their own early days, most adults know they are seeing a desperate need for safety and security. This was precipitated by a severe fear of aloneness in this little one. The best solution at that moment was through reconnection with a warm, reassuring and mature mother or mother figure.

 

Chapter Four: Fear of Intimacy

ePub

Susan Kavaler-Adler

The fear of intimacy can relate to primal annihilation terrors or to higher level fears of object loss and loss of love. The terror of losing any differentiated subjective self and its autonomy, or any primitive sense of existing at all, or of killing off the part object mother-other with one's basic states of emotional need, are seen in character disorders. Higher level fears of retaliatory aggression, and of one's own aggression killing off the object, as well as fears of grief-laden loss, and fears of overwhelming longings for the love of a loving other who can also withhold love and thus create the pain of unrequited love—all can be seen in Oedipal level neurotic conditions (those already living a lot of the time in Melanie Klein's depressive position).

To break down some of the pre-Oedipal terrors (Winnicott's (1965) “unthinkable anxieties”) as well as the higher level inhibitions that all together give us a picture of the “fear of intimacy”, I will have two sections of this chapter. The first section will outline the concepts of major British and American object relations theorists who speak in their own particular ways of the developmental arrests due to primal trauma, and of the higher level intrapsychic dilemmas and conflicts that forestall intimacy in relationships. The second section will give clinical examples from my own psychoanalytic object relations private practice of almost forty years.

 

Chapter Five: Fear of Injury

ePub

Jerome S. Blackman

The disciple, in search of meaning, approaches the Zen master. The Zen master tests him: “What is reality?” The disciple responds, “Reality is an internal construction. Reality is the manifestation of mental aggregations. Reality is your mind's personal creation.” The Zen master then takes a stick1 and smacks the disciple on the head.2

Not to labour the point, when we speak of fear of physical injury, we are dealing both with reality and fantasy. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Yet, in our everyday lives, we see the operation of the reality principle (Freud, 1920g; Schur, 1966). We could not drive on the highway if we did not trust that other people did not want to be physically injured. We rely on the idea that the vast majority of human beings possess a self-preservation function that leads them to try to avoid road accidents. We drive “defensively”. On the other hand, there are people who are afraid to drive a car, or even get into one, citing the average of about 40,000 deaths per year in road accidents in the US.3 How realistic are they?

 

Chapter Six: Fear of Success

ePub

Andrew Klafter

Psychological conflicts which interfere with confidence and motivation to pursue success in various aspects of life are among the most common emotional difficulties observed in patients who seek psychoanalytic and intensive psychotherapy. The Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries both define success in two ways: (1) a desired or favourable outcome, and (2) the attainment of wealth, status, fame, and honour, thus reflecting the subjective and personal dimensions of success, as well as the most common external signifiers of success in Western culture.

The subject of this inquiry is to explore the dynamics of “success neurosis”, a term coined by Lorand (1950). This term originally referred to a phenomenon, already described by Freud (1916d), of people who respond to their successes with feelings of guilt and intense self-condemnation, and in some cases inflict punishment upon themselves. The term “fear of success” is often credited to M. Horner (1968), an experimental psychologist who pioneered a projective test to study the anxieties of college men and college women provoked by academic success (Griffore, 1977; Miller, 1994). Colman (2009), in his A Dictionary of Psychology, reserves the term “fear of success” for individuals who are inhibited from exerting efforts at achievement, and “success neurosis” for individuals who punish themselves in response to actual successes. However, this distinction is idiosyncratic. Other authors use the term “success neurosis” to refer to both phenomena. It is reasonable to assume that any conflict that induces self-punishment upon achieving one's goals may well inhibit the same person from trying to reach them, and indeed some authors note patients suffering from both phenomena (Levy, Seelig, & Inderbitzin, 1995). Therefore, for the purpose of this chapter, “success neurosis” and “fear of success” are interchangeable terms and can refer to any psychological conflict or emotional problem which prevents people from pursuing their goals and ambitions, or enjoying their success in attaining them.

 

Chapter Seven: Fear of Death

ePub

Calvin A. Colarusso

Death and the fear of death are universal experiences. However, the degree to which any human being, man, woman, or child fears death, and the content of their fears, is highly individual. Further, in a brief article, or in a series of articles for that matter, the infinite variety of experience cannot be approached in any significant way. In this contribution, I provide examples from professional literature, my clinical experience, and literature and film to demonstrate a few ways in which individuals express and deal with this daunting developmental task. I begin, however, with a brief review of what Freud had to say about this matter.

Freud's ideas on the fear of death

Freud (1926d) related the fear of death to the following fears that occur in the course of development during the oral, anal, Oedipal, and latency phases: loss of the object, loss of the object's love, castration, and fear of the superego. The following quote describes the relationship between these early experiences and the fear of death, particularly the effect of the superego.

 

Chapter Eight: Fear across the Life Span

ePub

M. Hossein Etezady

Fear, as an innate internal signal, is indispensable for safe and successful conduct of behaviour in the service of survival. Without fear, we would be at the mercy of daily mishaps and ordinary dangers of everyday life. Without fear, one of the greatest virtues of man, courage, daring to risk in the face of peril, might not exist. In man as well as in lower animals, the brain's subcortical and limbic areas, sometimes called the “reptilian brain”, scan, register, and diagnose fear, nearly instantly or even before the emerging danger is actually present, as an anticipatory preparation for fight-or-flight response. The subcortical regions then connect their integrated output to the cortex and the orbito-frontal areas for emotional processing and cognitive elaboration. This can lead to immediate, short-term or long-term action measures. Of these some are reflexive, others skill-based or habitual, and still others contingency oriented and more or less subject to reflection and deliberation.

 

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