Author: Fritz Riemann
Year: First published: 1961; New edition published: 01/03/2008
Length: 220 pages
Genre: Psychology, Nonfiction
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Short Description: Anxiety by Fritz Riemann is originally published under the title Grundformen der Angst (Basic forms of fears). A book about human behavior, fear, and the origin of our fears. Fear exists regardless of the culture, level of personal or national development. Despite its importance, we rarely realize how fear really influences us. Through the rich examples, the author manages to delve deep into the core reason of our fears and potentially help us get rid of terrors, which have pursued us our whole life.
Someone’s personal development and growth depends on a large extent on how they control their fears. That’s exactly what the author is trying to answer here – how fear influences us and what techniques we can use to overcome some of our dyed-in-the-wool horrors.
Here we are not talking about a fear of spiders, bugs, heights, dark, or our ex-girlfriends. Mr. Riemann explains how our fears are formed, and what’s their origin. He gently, carefully, leads the reader to recognize his/her own anxieties and one-sidedness. The confrontation with personal problems which can be raised onto the level of consciousness helps the reader to understand himself and his fellow human beings better.
This is one of the greatest social psychology books I’ve ever read.
The examples the author uses are real gold. You will inevitably find yourself, your relatives, your parents, basically, everyone you know will appear throughout the pages of this book.
At first, I thought the book tackles our main fears – the reason we turn on all lights in the house on our way to the toilet, but not. The author goes much deeper. He disintegrates each personality type – from the four discussed in the book – into small pieces. This exercise reveals exactly what’s promises in the title – the main fears of us, humans.
Although the book was written more than 50 years ago, the information inside is astonishingly true today. Another thing that impressed me, is the fact that the author was born in Germany. From his biography, I understand that he has lived there most of his life, however, the things described here are true to the people I know. What is the conclusion? It seems that people are pretty much the same no matter at what time or in which part of the planet they’re born. This thought is both good and bad: Good, because we can easily understand people in other countries after reading the book. Bad, because that means that despite the great discoveries and the amazing growth in terms of technology, we haven’t evolved much.
Here are some of the most insightful things, for me, I would really like to remember from this book:
Four Personality types Described by Riemann
I find his description of the different personality types for one of the most unique and complete explanations about us, humans. Let me share with you my notes:
- 1. Schizoid Personality – Schizoids seek to be as independent as possible. They don’t hope that someone will help them or save them. They know that they’re on their own in this world. Being independent and unselfish is crucial to them. They see people as objects, which can be used when there’s a need. Still, they know that being alone in this world is not practical. Therefore, they hold someone possessing qualities opposite to their close, but not too close. Just enough to avoid being emotionally attached.
Schizoids, above all, avoid personal contact. Evading intimacy is a common thing for them. Such person fears meeting alone with someone, with one partner, and tries to make business relations business. When he is among others, he feels best in when he can remain anonymous and still engaged in common interests.
Mainly this behavior is formed in highly sensitive, labile, and vulnerable people. People who were previously exposed to a lot of pain and this act is their shield against what they experienced in the past.
- 2. Depressed Personality – These people are the complete opposite of the first mentioned personality – Schizoids. They need someone else in order to feel complete, alive. In which sense, they do everything possible to remove the space between their spouse. Feeling loved, being close to their lover is like being in heaven. Although it might first seem like a really cute thing, this state evolves into a complete addiction. The absence of the feel of security is horrifying. Their greatest fear is the fear of loneliness.
This permanent dependency on others makes them incapable of making decisions on their own. They grow as if crippled, lacking an inner strength that others use to overcome obstacles. All these weaknesses, not surprisingly, form feelings of hate, jealousy, envying. As you can imagine, they’re buried deep inside, poisoning their mind and their body.
The next logical question is: How such behavior is formed? In short, becoming a depressed person is something build up from a young age. The main culprits are our parents – and more specifically, the mother part. In the back of their mind, they don’t what their children to grow up. That’s why they constantly serve, adore, spoil their children. Later, these babies grow without the necessary skills to cope with the world, thus need someone else to help them along the way.
- Compulsive personality – Cautious, predictable, people who plan long-term. What they greatly fear is change and taking risks. Such people will wear their old clothes with the argument that they should save their new ones for later – in case something happens. They can be easily recognized by their annoying attention to details, desire for perfectionism, feeling of control.
They plan ahead and think in great details about things that may never occur. Often a compulsive person will play different scenarios in the head with a person he’s just met. Considering the facts and the odds, he may even end a friendship or a possible relationship, well before it started.
Again, such behavior is formed at a very young age. To grow overprotective and constantly looking for safe shelter, will mean that we have been constantly repeated to behave, be nice, go to bed early. These conditions stick like nails in our young brain, leading to a future of compulsive career.
- Histrionic personality – The magic of the new, the charm of exploring the unknown, the joy of being free. You certainly know such people. They love to travel, be among others, socialize. Histrionic personalities fear the restrictions, social norms, the dull everyday life. They are determined to make use of every day and despise uniformity. Often such people cheat, take huge risks and live on the edge.
This is how a typical histrionic person lives: for the moment, without clear plans and goals, always searching for new fascination, impressions, and adventures. Above all, they need to feel free. Free from obligations, rules, restrictions. Of course, the world we live in cannot offer such a frivolous life, which leads to building a void illusory world, where only fantasies exist.
Thanks to their inherent charm, and often to their beauty, they soon awaken sympathy; making it easy for others to fall in love with them. They get used to this early and expect similar behavior from everybody in the future, of course, this doesn’t always happen. The lack of a person who has a strong charisma to guide them at an early age plays a key role in creating such behavior. Also, an environment that is chaotic, contradictory, incomprehensible, without guidance and specimens, offers the child too little orientation and support, resolving to the above behavior.
Fear can simultaneously activate or paralyze us
Often we tell ourselves – don’t be afraid, be fearless, there nothing to be afraid of. We also see the following scene repeating in pretty much every horror movie: “Enter inside that big creepy house in the middle of the forest, I am sure there are candies and milk left right next to the fireplace – and they’re not poisonous.” If you strive to completely remove the feeling of fear from your life, think twice about it.
If we analyze fear without being afraid, we will immediately get the idea of its dual aspect, on the one hand, it can activate us, on the other, paralyze us. Imagine the following scenario: It’s late at night. You’re walking home by foot. Suddenly, a guy holding a gun jumps in front of you and starts screaming – he wants your wallet.
At this exact moment, you can be these two things: 1) Scared as fuck. Paralyzed from the situation. Speechless. You will probably stand still for a moment and after several threats, you will hand over your possessions. 2) Not scared, rather curious, “is this guy for real?” After quickly analyzing the situation you can grab his gun, punch the guy in the face and knock him over. Exactly what the guys in the action movies do.
You don’t want to remove fear from your life, rather you should strive to embrace it, learn from it, accept it. Overcoming fear means a step forward in our development as people.
Our attitude, behavior, thoughts define who we are
In short, what you do is what defines you.
Remember what The Мechanic said in Fight Club: “You are not your profession. You are not your family and you are not the one you think you are. You’re not your problems…” Well, he is right.
You’ve become exactly the person you are, not because of your body structure, or the pair of sneakers you’re wearing, but because of the things you say, do, and think about. A new watch, new car, new glasses, new refrigerator, new hat, might look and feel nice, but they’re surely not defining ourselves. Marketers are trying to install this way of thinking in our heads: “If you’re a funny looking hipster, curious about new high-tech products, you should definitely use Apple products.”
An iPhone surely looks and works fine, but it’s just a phone. When you have one you don’t instantly turn into a cool looking bearded guy wearing sunglasses when there’s no sun. You’re exactly the same guy, but with an expensive phone. If change is what you’re looking for, start from the inside. What are your thoughts, habits, actions? Not what new clothes to buy.
Afraid of Ourselves
Centuries ago, people were most afraid of natural disasters, demons, witches, gods. Today, we emphasize on other things: fear of public speaking, the dentist, commitment, clowns. What we’re really afraid though, is ourselves.
Most of the things that sociality want us to fear are external factors. Overcoming fear of the dentist will surely make our visit more pleasant, but it won’t really be something life-changing. In reality, what really makes a difference is if we stop being afraid of our own thoughts. About things like death, rejection, failure. The easiest thing that you can do for yourself is to accept that such things happen. You will definitely pass away at some point. If you are a man, you will get rejected, like 100 of times, before a girl says “yes, I will go out with you.” Failure is part of being successful.
Raising a Child
If you carefully reviewed the four personality types presented by from Fritz Riemann, you definitely saw a pattern. Something that was repeating in every type. Do you know what it is? I believe you do. Our future behavior, the way we think and perceive the world around is largely influenced by how we’re raised.
It’s probably already late for us. We can make efforts and change/remove habits that affect us badly. Still, if we were exposed to a bad parenting at our earliest age, we will definitely keep wounds deep inside that will never heal.
What you can do though, is learn from both, yours, and your parents mistakes while raising your own children. The child’s earliest environment should offer, along with the necessary care, emotional warmth, attention, stability, tenderness, strong and equitable character serving as an example to the child.
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