Dr Albrechts 5 Types of Fears: What We're Really Afraid Of...

Types of Fears represented by a tarantula spiderWhilst some of our fears are basic survival and pain-avoidance, many fears - as we know - are literally in the mind (how many of you are creeped out by the picture of the spider?). And while there are lots of articles out there which list our fears and phobias, it's hard to find a good article that helps us chunk up those fears into useful categories. If we were to group fears together - to try and understand the TYPES of fears we have, what would that look like?

Well, recently I found that a favourite thinker of mine, Dr. Karl Albrecht did indeed classify the types of fears we have, and I wanted to share it with you! Hopefully this will help you help your clients understand what they may REALLY be afraid of!

Here are Dr Karl Albrecht's 5 Types of Fears:

1. Extinction.

The fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is more than just a "fear of death" or how we might die - it strikes at the very heart of our fear that we would simply no longer BE.

Examples of triggers include: The dark, flying, heights, fatal diseases. Dr. Albrecht calls it existential  anxiety and asks us to consider the panicky feeling we get if we look over the edge of a tall building.

2. Mutilation or Bodily Invasion.

The fear of losing a part of our body, having our body's boundaries invaded, or of losing a natural function. This would be any fear where we feel physically unsafe or under attack.

Examples of triggers include: In this pot would fall our anxieties about creepy crawlies like spiders or snakes, animals like dogs or sharks - and any animal you believe to be harmful. Also anxiety about crowds, needles, germs, surgical procedures or having to make a trip to the dentist!

3. Loss of Autonomy.

The fear of being restricted, confined, trapped, suffocated. As Dr. Albrecht puts it "the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control." When it's a physical fear it's called claustrophobia, but our fear of being smothered, restricted, unable to take care of ourselves or dependent on others can also apply to situations in our lives - or our relationships.

Examples of triggers include: Commitment, poverty, debilitating illness, aging. In addition, situations where we feel  helpless or powerless, for example at work, your boss tells you to do something you don't want to do, and refuses to discuss it with you. You have to do it or lose your job. You feel trapped, helpless. Most parents will also feel this fear from time to time - overwhelmed, trapped and restricted.

4. Separation, Abandonment or Rejection.

The fear of abandonment, rejection - we humans have a strong need to belong. This is my biggest fear. From a young age I have feared upsetting people for fear of being rejected and/or abandoned. I even have a visual of floating alone in outer space, never to see another living being ever again! From an evolutionary perspective, when an early human was kicked out of the tribe, they likely would have died. Dr. Albrecht refers to a "loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else." which literally threatens our wellbeing and survival.

Examples of triggers include: When a relationship ends - a friendship, divorce or death of a loved one. Sometimes when a relationship ends, we also lose an extended set of friends too increasing that loss of connectedness. This type of fear can also be triggered when a relationship deepens and with that an experience of vulnerability - what happens if this person I rely on leaves me - so a fear of intimacy! An argument or disagreement with someone important to us - at home or at work. Also, have you noticed that when someone ignores us or gives us the 'silent treatment' this often feels worse than being yelled at? Triggers can also be less obvious - an extended separation, even a voluntary one can subconsciously trigger this type of fear.

5. Humiliation, Shame or Worthlessness.

Dr. Albrecht called this type of fear, "Ego-death". We all need to feel lovable, worthy of love and of value in the world order to have healthy relationships with others - and with ourselves. Shame can be an excruciating feeling - something many of us will go great lengths to avoid. Not only can it leave us feeling physically sick, make our skin crawl or flush or in extremes give us stabbing pains, we want to crawl into a hole and disappear. When we are shamed and humiliated it can threaten or destroy our belief in our worth, our lovability and our value in the world. Without that, we are nobody. Literally. The supposed number 1 fear of public speaking would fall into this category!

Examples of triggers include: Failure, criticism, bullying, victimisation, mistakes, public speaking. There are genuine shame triggers like when we're caught in a lie or do something considered wrong by society. But, feelings of shame and worthlessness are often triggered be an expectation of judgement or criticism (from ourselves or others) when we mess up - losing one's job, or if we left our house unlocked and got burgled. In addition, sometimes when we are the victim - whether it's rape, bullying or slander, we are left feeling ashamed and worthless - literally worth "less".  Finally, depending on how sensitized we are, debilitating shame can even be triggered by seemingly small things like forgetting to send a birthday card, being told we're selfish (whether it's true or not!) or burning the dinner.

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Interesting fact: Did you know that Agoraphobia is not a fear of open spaces as commonly believed. It's actually a fear where people avoid places that may cause them to panic. Essentially they avoid situations that leave them feeling trapped, helpless and/or ashamed or embarrassed. Many people develop agoraphobia after having panic attacks because they fear further attacks and want to avoid the place where it happened.

So, Dr. Albrecht believes there are ONLY these 5 types of fears! And that many of our fears are a combination of the types of fears identified above. For me, this list of the types of fears seems to cover most of the fears I can think of, but...

What about you? Can you think of a fear that wouldn't fit under these 5 types of fears? For example: I wonder where our anxiety about emotional or physical pain would fit (perhaps the fear of mutilation/invasion?). What about when we're afraid for our children - when we worry what would happen to them if something happened to us? What about the fear of success?

Comment below and let us know what you think, or if you can think of a fear that is not covered by Dr. Albrecht's 5 types of fears.

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." Bill Cosby

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2 Comments

  1. Jacinth Tracey

    Thank you for addressing fear in this post. My recent book "Dump Your Fear and Claim Your Power" rose to #1 best-seller status on 3 list on Amazon.com and has sold more than 16,000 copies in just five months. I believe that speaking about fear resonates with our audiences because fear is at the epicenter of our limiting beliefs and keeps us from achieving personal and professional success. No matter the source or reason for our fears, we must learn to overcome them or we will end up living "less than" lives of default, rather than proactively and consciously creating powerFULL lives of our own design.

    To your powerFULL life!

    Jacinth Tracey, PhD
    Best-selling author | Speaker | Success Coach | Corporate Leadership Skills Trainer | Media Personality
    Founder and CEO at Wired2Succeed
    http://www.wired2succeed.com
    https://www.facebook.com/wired2succeed
    https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jacinth-tracey/21/82/181

    Reply

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