A Discussion About Fear

Let’s discuss fear. And let’s start at the beginning.

In this model (Tomkins, Ekman, etc.), there are nine innate emotions or affects. These are responses to stimuli, from the inside or outside of the human.

Interest

Interest

Enjoyment

Enjoyment

surprise

Surprise

Distress

Distress

Anger

Anger

Fear

Fear

Shame

Shame

Disgust

Disgust

Dismell (odor)

Dissmell

 

 

 

 

These affects operate on a scale low-to-high:

  • interest-excitement
  • enjoyment-joy
  • surprise-startle
  • distress-anguish
  • fear-terror
  • shame-humiliation
  • disgust-higher level
  • dissmell-higher level

So fear and terror are related—terror is extreme fear

  • Fear-terror is an extremely toxic affect…it results in a number of harmful bodily changes, especially if prolonged.
  • Fear has a classic facial/bodily response in the neonate.
  • Fear is a life and death response.
  • Fear is related to the speed of the incoming stimulus
    • If a stimulus comes in even faster, it creates surprise.
    • If a stimulus comes in slower, it creates an interest response in the baby (and adult).

So what about Anxiety?

Anxiety is akin to fear—an emergency affect.

And finally, what about Distress?

  • Distress is different from fear. Distress depends on the quantity of the stimulus.
  • Distress is necessary as a less toxic, but still negative affect—to send an SOS signal.

(see Demos EV ed (1995). Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan Tomkins. NY: Cambridge Univ Press, pages 27-85)

2018-08-16T19:04:45+00:00

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