The hierarchy of Fear

This is the first article of a two part series. Read part two, The Environment of Fear, here.

The hierarchy of fear is often established with small, incremental steps. These can take the form of subtle actions, which individually can pass almost unnoticed. Fear is the emotional reaction which occurs when a person identifies that an action or event will cause harm.

The hierarchy of fear
The hierarchy of fear - Australian Gymnastics Journal

Fear of Missing Out

FOMO, the fear of missing out on something, is the most basic type of fear within our community. It is often used in advertising, to persuade people to purchase something before it is all gone, or the price has gone up.

It is also used to encourage a person to comply with certain attitudes or behaviors, for fear of being excluded from a social group or missing out on being selected for a sporting team.

Fear of Failure

An individual with a good imagination can envisage a desired outcome. This outcome may be of an internal nature, such as achieving something new, an activity not tried previously. It may also be a goal set by somebody else, with the outcome of success or failure defined by others.

When the desired outcome is not achieved, this can result in a sense of failure. The repetition of an inability to reach a goal can reinforce the sense of failure, to the point where a fear of failure develops. The fear of failure can be so strong that the person suffering it no longer attempts to reach her or his desired outcome.

Where success or failure of an individual is defined by others, the comments they make , over time, can affect the individual’s sense of self worth. The verbal feedback can be used as a strategy of control by those in positions of authority.

Fear of Rejection

When an individual desires to be part of activities with another person, or group, then he or she may become afraid of being unwelcome with them. This fear of rejection may inhibit the individual from approaching the others, or it may happen later, when the person is already part of the social arrangement.

A person, who is already part of a group, may fear rejection so strongly that she or he will go along with bullying behavior initiated by others in the group. This implied approval encourages the bullying and is likely to make it worse.

Fear of Attack

Attacks can be verbal or physical. In the interconnected world of social media, verbal attacks on individuals are far more common than physical attacks. The identity of the attacker is often unknown, meaning defensive strategies to combat the attack are limited. Yet those cowards, hiding behind false names, who are bullying others have their own supporters. Many of them are afraid of becoming the next victim if they are rejected by the group.

The most common form of physical attack is punishment, imposed by an individual in a position of power or authority over another person. This can take the form of excessive, repetitive physical activity or of hitting the less powerful person. The strategy is designed to ensure compliance with the wishes of the person in authority.

Fear of Speaking Out

Speaking out means having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Yet feeling elements of fear of undesirable outcomes can inhibit speech. As well as the fears listed above, an adult may hold a fear of losing employment and income if she or he speaks out. Along with this, gossip and lies may be spread to prevent further employment, destroying an individual’s reputation.

The hierarchy of Fear can govern our lives, but ultimately:

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." (David Morrison,2013)

By In