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Emotions and the brain

Fear, anxiety and anguish

Help Linked Module: Bowling for Columbine Linked Module: Le fanatisme psychanalysé Linked Module: Culture of Fear
 Linked Module: Cuba: pour en finir avec la peur Linked Module: Le Refus global
Original modules
History Module: The Long History of the Culture of Fear in the United States The Long History of the Culture of Fear in the United States
 Tool Module: Managing Stress   Managing Stress

When people live in a culture of fear, they adopt attitudes and behaviours that minimize their risk of being persecuted. They become docile, submissive, and silent. When they see friends, neighbours, and family members suffer the physical and psychological cruelties of repression, they become afraid of the mere idea of questioning the often racist, sexist, and inegalitarian status quo in which they live.

Fear is the body's natural alarm system, and sometimes it can save our lives. But like any useful mechanism, it can also do us harm if it gets out of control.

In particular, when fear becomes chronic because it is reinforced daily, it can make us too terrified to act or even to think.

This is why repressive measures are instituted by authoritarian governments: to break any will to oppose them. If anyone dares to think differently, the government persecutes them relentlessly. To stay in power, such governments instil in their people what is known as a "culture of fear".



A culture of fear can be established directly through violence by the police or the army, as happens in military dictatorships. It can also be created by terrorism and the whole panoply of methods that terrorists use to establish a climate of fear, such as targeted assassinations, bombs in public places, and so on.

The culture of fear is also present in contemporary societies that like to consider themselves democratic. But in such societies, the methods that maintain this culture are different and more subtle, usually involving the mass media.

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