Is Fear a Natural Instinct?

By Kyla Miller, R.H.N.;

Is fear a natural instinct? This question has been on my mind lately. As you know, there are many different elements to fear and many reasons why we each fear the things we do. For example, I was raised in a very strict family. As a youth, my fears mostly consisted of displeasing my parents. I was also constantly distressed over what others thought of me and I worried about saying the wrong things. I must admit that these fears also steamed from an intense sense of compassion and concern for others.  I worried about saying the wrong things to others, perhaps upsetting or hurting them in some way. I also tended to put others wishes and needs before my own. Not such a bad thing, I know, but it led me to a point in my life where I couldn’t make any decisions for myself. I relied on others to tell me what to do and when to do it. I guess the only way to figure out the answer to this question, is to first understand fear and where it comes from.


Webster’s dictionary defines fear as “an emotion or passion excited by the expectation of evil or the apprehension of impending danger”. There are a couple of key words that I would like to focus on in this definition. These are “expectation” and “impending”. Both of these words imply that fear is based on something that we are expecting to happen in the future. Why would we do this to ourselves? We all know that we cannot control every aspect of our lives. Why do we assume the worst? Fear can wreck havoc on our bodies and emotions. It causes worry, self doubt, stress, anxiety, holding back, not living life, not experiencing our catalyst. Can we ever be free of fear? Perhaps not completely and perhaps not right away. However, a good place to start would be to identify and understand the reason behind fear.

Reasons We Fear

There are many different reasons we fear the various things we do. Each of us is different and we all have different life experiences. Perhaps we were in a terrible car accident, or maybe we were thrown off a horse. Our mother might have been afraid of spiders and, as a result, this fear may have transferred into our reality. If none of the above applies to us, then there is always the horrific world events and mass media coverage that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Whatever our reason, we all have the excuse to fear something. Can we break free from it? That is only a question that we can answer on an individual basis.

The Point

Perhaps fear is a natural instinct, but can we overcome it? Can we focus on the positive in life instead of worrying about what is around the corner? On the other hand, can we view fear has something beneficial - an emotion that we can use to motivate us and learn from. When it comes down to it, we have no idea what awaits us. It could be something amazing. If we are too busy living in fear, we might miss it.

Your questions: Is fear a natural instinct? What do you think? Also, what do you fear? (post your comments below)

About the Author : Kyla Miller is the co-founder of She has overcome illness through dietary/lifestyle changes, and practicing a positive mindset daily. Kyla is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is currently studying to become a Reiki Master.


  1. that's an interesting question.

    my uncle, who is currently 46 and battling cancer, was in a documentary that i watched a couple of weeks ago. (he's a well know dancer and choreographer) he said when asked in the documentary, what is your greatest fear, that it was dying alone. now, as he maybe faces death, he says he's never felt so loved and supported by so many people.

    most of our fears are of the unknown, and i think most of the time, when we face them, we are happily surprised at the outcome.

  2. That's a great story Margeaux. Thanks for sharing!

    Very true. we must come to terms with our fears in order to move forward.

  3. (IMO!)Fear is a natural instinct for sure. Its a defence mechanism, for when the conscious brain have trouble agreeing with the unconscious brain. I believe fear can only be triggered if the brain thinks our life is in danger. Fear can be a good thing in a bad situation when making you paranoid and alert can make you avoid death. I believe it is the unconscious brain that takes action which explains the unnatural feel the emotion has. The unconscious brain, basically think of it as a fact checker, scans all emotions, sounds, etc and sends that information to the conscious brain for it to put final judgement if it is logical and take action. I believe the first thing to make the unconscious brain suspicious is basically through finding signs of something unusual sound, smell or object that is not normal and makes the situation dangerous to be in since it is unknown. The conscious brain makes logical judges based on abstract things, so the conscious brain will judge it as not logical, not taking action and making it a thought. So the unconscious brain finds this disturbing enough and want the body to defend itself by tricking the conscious brain. How it does this is by sending signals that there is something abstract and dangerous is near, but it has to be invisible for it to trick it, therefor final judgement responds by putting your body on high alert ready to fight or flight from an unknown enemy. The combined emotions of being tense, alert, stressed, uneasy,ready to run or fight to the death with the unknown is what fear is. Though not always as successful and that results in a scary thought or paranoia.

    just a theory no facts or knowledge went into this

  4. I think fear's function used to be to save lives. If you meet a sabretooth tiger fear is not a very bad instinct. But our societies have grown safer in terms of direct threats to our life and @ the same time so much more complex in terms of rules, regulations and contexts which at times can be overwhelming.

    There's so many opinions out there and we've been fed our parent's, teacher's and culture's opinions before we were old enough to form our own.

    I think a lot of the fears we have are in fact not our own but something we inherited from parents, teachers, peers and culture. It takes a lot of self contemplation to recognize this.

    For myself; i found out that I let a lot of my behaviour be guided by my unconscious fear of not being liked or not being "a nice person". I think a lot of people have this fear. I decided i'd rather not be "nice" and true to myself. It took me a while to grow confident in setting clear boundaries but now that i'm comfy with them, i feel i don't need to protect them that much and i've found that instead of being nice i can be kind. Being kind feels much more authentic than being nice.
    And when i say "no" to someone else I say "yes" to me. That last line is a Byron Katie quote :)


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