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  • Resilient Practice

Fear Patterns

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge”

- Tuli Kupferberg

What are fear patterns?

Fear patterns can be described as the automatic, ‘go to’ responses that are employed when we have moved into a place of fear. They are instinctual behavioural patterns – and instinct is all about survival.

In the traditional ‘cave man,’ fight/flight scenario, a fear pattern might look like running away or defending ourselves physically from an attacker. Put simply, when we perceive that we are under attack, we feel fear and our response is to remove the attacker or ourselves from the situation. This is an unconscious cognitive behavioural cycle consisting of thoughts, emotions and behaviours leading to outcomes. We perceive that we are under attack (unconscious thought,) we feel fear (emotion caused by fight/flight body chemistry,) we run, or we defend (behaviour.)

In today’s complex world however, fear can be triggered in so many more ways than the threat of physical attack.

Fear patterns come about in childhood as a result of testing out behaviours in situations of stress. A child in distress will unconsciously choose a behaviour such as shouting, blushing, withdrawing, pleasing, or fixing to make the problem go away. As the situation dissolves, not because of the behaviour but because all situations eventually do, the psyche of the child concludes ‘I did not die or lose any limbs – therefore that behaviour was successful.’ As a result, we grow into shouters, blushers, withdrawers, pleasers, or fixers, and because we have done it since we can remember, we think that that is who we are.

Fear patterns are the agreements that we made long ago in childhood about how we needed to act in order to stay safe.

We have spoken many times about the fear of abandonment lying at the heart of much of our discomfort.

We have also said before that fear is rooted in two common core beliefs about Self:

1. I am not worthy/good enough.

2. I am broken/defective/not whole.

We are social creatures, and it is true that we are both more comfortable and safer as part of a community. Our need for acceptance, approval, love, friendship, reputation, social standing, and purpose, however, goes deeper than that. These qualities are the opposite to rejection and abandonment which from birth to the human psyche are both synonymous with death. As a result of this we spend our lives in search of belonging and the acquisition of the above qualities is proof that we have made it. This means that when these things are threatened, we perceive ourselves as in peril.

When we perceive that we are in peril, our instinct takes over and our fear patterns are initiated.

In the book ‘Power Path Training’ authors Lena and Jose Luis Stevens make the bold statement that ‘your fear patterns will kill you.’

This took some processing when we read it.

If we consider however, that our instinctual fear patterns are unconscious and running on unchecked, we can accept that there are consequences to them that we have not consciously chosen. They tend to create more discomfort than ease because they are emergency survival measures - so comfort is not a priority. This means that even in their mildest form, our fear patterns will create anxiety, resulting in an unfavourable cocktail of unpleasant body chemistry which, when prolonged, is evidenced to be unhealthy for the body.

Listed below are some examples of common fear patterns, the harmful effects of which are in some cases obvious and in others, more subtle.

They come about through instinct just as soon as we have told ourselves in some way that we are not good enough:

Responding to triggers

People pleasing




Compromising values/principles/selling out

Not standing up for oneself

Not standing up for others


Staying quite to keep the peace

Living outside one’s means (incurring debt)

Sabotaging success

Focussing on failure

Seeking approval

Seeking attention


Keeping secrets

Passive aggression








Removal of boundaries

Agreeing to everything



Forced humour



Criticism of others/judgement

Putting others down

Complaining/affirming suffering

Lack of drive/lethargy


Pushing others away/detachment

Clinging on to others/attachment




Forced positivity




Look at the above list and follow each of these patterns of behaviour to its extreme and you can soon see how life limiting every one of them could be.

Our survival mechanisms are in fact, killing us.

If we do not recognise and address these patterns within ourselves, we will employ them unconsciously and routinely. Along with chronic negative body chemistry, the incessant repetition of negative patterns will lead to repeated negative outcomes and the manifestation of negative situations that we would not have consciously chosen.

This is not the world that we would choose.

Each of us has his/her own individual set of fear patterns which were decided in childhood when we were entering into the risky business of experiencing a human life.

When we embark on a journey of enlightenment, however, we are wise if we get to know our own unique set. Only then can we recognise them as they arise and seek to choose differently, thus manifesting a world in which we can thrive.

Try this:

As always, we invite you to observe.

Stepping into the shoes of your Observer Self allows you to become the witness to what is going on with you without becoming a part of it.

You can observe what you are telling yourself, what emotions are evoked and coming up for you as a result and what instinctive behaviours follow. You can do all of this standing back form the events as they unfold.

This affords you with the gift of information.

Cultivate the habit of regularly observing your patterns.

This way you can become familiar with your own unique set of ‘go to’ instinctual responses.

You can greet them like old well-meaning but misguided friends who have your survival - but not necessarily your wellbeing - at heart.

Thank them.

Put yourself on notice to notice when one of your fear patterns is at play and remind yourself of the potential damage that it can cause when running on unchecked.

When you notice this happening press pause.

If you have read any of our articles or listened to our free audios, by now we hope that you are in possession of some tools.

If not – go and look!

Use the tools.

Breathe – two minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to down-regulate the fight/flight mechanism that results from fearful thinking.

Reframe – What are you telling yourself? Is it really true or is it a story that fits your negative core beliefs?

Choose – There will be a wide and varied range of alternative behaviours that can be substituted for the fear pattern. None of them will feel safe or comfortable because they are not your ‘go to,’ however, with careful thought and precision newly chosen behaviours will affect different outcomes.

Choosing alternative behaviours is a game. What will happen if I speak my authentic truth? What will happen if I do not react to that trigger? What will happen if I choose to see the positive aspects of that situation?

When you choose behaviours that foster a favourable outcome, the world around you will shift into a favourable place.

For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your human experience see our book:

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