The Seven Deadly Fears can be thought of as disturbances of childhood in the Lowenian sense in that they set up characteristic blocks to spontaneous, creative, and vibrant living and loving. Each of these character blocks can be thought of as intimately linked with body function and structure at various developmental levels in the same manner that Lowen has demonstrated in his extensive work on character types. Each set of character blocks generated by childhood fear can also be expected to manifest in relationships—especially the psychotherapeutic one—as resistance to relating in a fully alive manner in the "here-and-now" of the present moment.
Seven Deadly Fears thus outlines not only seven distinctly different kinds of fears produced by different kinds of childhood relationship situations. Each general fear is assumed to be specifically tied to certain kinds of misattuned environmental responsiveness to the child's changing developmental capacities and needs at different stages of development. The crucial technical implication in conceptualizing seven developmental levels of fear-based character formations is that optimal listening in psychotherapy then requires that we respond to each developmental level with different ways of understanding the transference, the resistance, and the countertransference.
1. The Fear of Being Alone
We dread reaching out and finding nobody there to respond to our needs. We fear being ignored, being left alone, and being seen as unimportant. We feel the world does not respond to our needs. So what's the use?
2. The Fear of Connecting
Because of frightening and painful experiences in the past, connecting emotionally and intimately with others feels dangerous. Our life experiences have left us feeling that the world is not a safe place. We fear injury so we withdraw from connections.
3. The Fear of Being abandoned
After having connected emotionally or bonded with someone, we fear being either Abandoned abandoned with our own needs or being swallowed up by the other person's. In either case we feel the world is not a dependable place; that we live in danger of emotional abandonment. We may become clingy and dependent or we may become super- independent—or both.
4. The Fear of Self-Assertion
We have all experienced rejection and perhaps even punishment for expressing ourselves in a way that others don’t like. We thus may learn to fear asserting ourselves and letting our needs be known in relationships. We feel the world does not allow us to be truly ourselves. We may either cease putting ourselves out there altogether, we may assert ourselves with a demanding vengeance, or we may even relate in passive-aggressive ways.
5. The Fear of Lack of Recognition
When we do not get the acceptance and confirmation we need in relationships, we are left with a feeling of not being seen or recognized for who we really are. We may then fear we will not be affirmed or confirmed in our relationships. Or we may fear that others will only respect and love us if we are who they want us to be. We may work continuously to feel seen and recognized by others or we may give up in rage, humiliation or shame.
6. The Fear of Failure and Success
When we have loved and lost or tried and failed, we may fear opening ourselves up to painful competitive experience again. When we have succeeded or won—possibly at someone else's expense—we may experience guilt or fear retaliation. Thus we learn to hold back in love and life, thereby not risking either failure or success. We may feel the world does not allow us to be fulfilled. Or we may feel guilty and afraid for feeling fulfilled.
7. The Fear of Being Fully Alive
Our expansiveness, creative energy and joy in our aliveness inevitably come into conflict with demands from family, work, religion, culture, and society. We come to believe that we must curtail our aliveness in order to be able to conform to the demands and expectations of the world we live in. We feel the world does not permit us to be fully, joyfully, and passionately alive. Rather than putting our whole selves out there with full energy and aliveness, we may throw in the towel, succumb to mediocre conformity, or fall into a living deadness.
We are an Intimate Species
We now know that we are nature’s first experiment in emotional intimacy. Human babies are born desiring and searching for intimate emotional exchanges with their caregivers from the get-go. Brain scans reveal that our brains actually organize themselves according to the relationship opportunities available during the first two years of life. Further, the unique prefrontal cortex of the human brain has been found to be directly connected to our heart and is known to guide the structuring of the rest of the brain in accordance with the emotional messages infants give and receive from their caregivers.
However, neuropsychology shows that traumatic fear of any kind intrudes into the developing relational life of infants leaving deep neurological scars that profoundly affect later development. That is, whenever we are frightened by relational experiences the pathways open at that moment constrict in order to alert us to avoid those kinds of relationship situations in the future. I have called these shutdown effects that develop in response to fear and pain “fear reflexes.” It is as if a sign were posted on channels of personal connections to other people that have been frightening or hurtful—“Never reach that way again.” All infants, toddlers, and older children and adolescents experience body-mind fears arising from certain kinds relationship situations.
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy
Dynamic Psychsocialsomatic Psychotherapy is an advanced structured body and relationship focused psychotherapy for working with realtionship difficulties, chronic illness, personality disorders and complex trauma. This approach in psychotherapy recognizes that to reduce fear and conflict a person must work with the body aswell as the mind. This is because beginning at the earliest age, our feeling responses to frightening or painful experiences became locked inside our physical selves. Then it was too dangerous, not allowed, or not otherwise possible to cry, scream, or rage. So these unexpressed feelings remain held in the body by chronic muscular tension patterns. As long as our feelings are trapped in our bodies we are stuck in self-protective behavior—our fear reflexes. We cannot experience deep psychological change even though we may have insight and awareness regarding what our patterns of chronic contraction are about without also experiencing changes in our bodies.
Dynamic psychosocialsomatic psychotherapy works with these chronic contractions in the body as well as with the issues and experiences which have created them. For body psychotherapists of any orientation the tension patterns in the body provide an essential key to understanding the client's problems. In this form of mind-mind therapy, certain exercises are utilized to help the person experience feelings, to express them, and to release them while understanding and integrating their meaning within the therapeutic relationship. This allows for change to take place on deep psychological as well as biological levels. These exercises can help you begin the process of connecting to your body and to your feelings. They provide a way to begin to release the long-held tension patterns, which operate destructively in your life.