The Structure of Fear

I’m currently teaching a course called The Psychology of Fear and Terror. I decided to open it with instructions on the qualitative analysis of frightening experiences. Each student described his or her own experience (a protocol statement) and then collected statements from acquaintances. The goals were to learn this method and to better understand the complexities of individual experiences.

Students learned that fear overlaps other emotions, some obvious but others surprising. Obvious were anxiety, stress, terror, and concern. Hope was a surprise, but hope can be a strategy for blunting or blocking fear. The experience has both physiological and emotional dimensions. It can be immediate or delayed, and it can elicit a fight-flight-or-freeze reaction. It might be short-lived or have long-term repercussions.Different people in similar situations, such as pilots flying with disabled engines, might report quite different experiences.

One student wanted to plunge the class into an experience of fear by visiting a reputedly haunted psychiatric facility. Most were eager to go. As I write this, we are a day away from that trip … read more about The Structure of Fear.

Source: Psychology Today