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What Is Fear

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Fear is "an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger."[1] Fear is completely natural and helps people to recognize and respond to dangerous situations and threats. However, healthy fear -- or fear which has a protective function -- can evolve into unhealthy or pathological fear, which can lead to exaggerated and violent behavior. Dr. Ivan Kos lays out several different stages of fear. The first is real fear, or fear based on a real situation. If someone or something hurts you, you have a reason to fear it in the future. Second is realistic or possible fear. This is fear based in reality that causes a person to avoid a threat in the first place (i.e. waiting to cross a busy road for safety reasons). Next, exaggerated or emotional fear deals with an individual "recalling past fears or occurrences and injecting them into a current situation."[2] This type of fear is particularly relevant to conflict. Emotional fear affects the way people handle conflictual situations. Causes of Fear

Conflict is often driven by unfulfilled needs and the fears related to these needs. The most common fear in intractable conflict is the fear of losing one's identity and/or security. Individuals and groups identify themselves in certain ways (based on culture, language, race, religion, etc.) and threats to those identities arouse very real fears -- fears of extinction, fears of the future, fears of oppression, etc. For many people, the world is changing rapidly and their lives are being altered as a result. For some religious people, this change leads to the fear that young people will abandon the Church or Mosque, that the media will become more important and influential in the lives of their children, and that they are losing control of their own future. These threats to identity result in fear. [3] Similarly, in many ethnic conflicts, a history of "humiliation, oppression, victimhood, feelings of inferiority, persecution of... Show More

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