A lot of psychologists believe that fear is an innate emotion that exists to trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response. They believe that we are born with the ability to be afraid as a natural reaction because it’s a survival mechanism. Fear helps us to determine when we’re faced with danger and it helps us to know how or when to react in order to survive. There was a time when the fears of lightening, fire, or wild animals were all acceptable because those were real threats. Those types of fears are very different from fears that are learned or are conditioned.
As civilization progressed and we no longer needed to be afraid of those things, people began to develop other fears, namely the fear of other people. If we think of it in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, it’s considered normal and okay to be afraid of ‘them’, whomever the members of that group might be.
Children learn many attitudes from their families from a very young age. They can be sensitive not only to facial expressions, but also to negative emotions that are in the environment. If a child grows up in a home that doesn’t feel safe, he or she will be more prone to see the world as a fearful place.
According to studies, during the first year of life, a child develops a sense of trust or mistrust depending on whether his needs got met within a reasonable amount of time. That’s the lens through which the child is going to view the world. If the child perceives that the world is not a trustworthy place, he or she will be governed by fear.
When an individual is governed by fear, he or she will go on to make up superstitions and these might even get passed down through generations and defended as valid beliefs.
Very few people actually understand the programming of fear and how this can distort our perceptions.