Wenn etwas nicht stimmt - Die Psychologie Angst

When something is wrong - The Psychology of Fear

When it comes to the soul, we often think of a nebulous ambiguity. It's inexplicable, incomprehensible, and confusing... somewhat eerie.


When we think of mysterious mental functions, thoughts of Sigmund Freud with his dark couch, dim lighting, and a sense of sexual danger in the air aren't far behind.


When we consider inflammatory diseases within the body, we typically imagine scenarios involving blood draws at the doctor's office, laboratory analyses, and printed reports. Rather than being eerie, these representations are clear, comprehensible, as well as understandable.


The soul doesn't have a good reputation.


In Greek philosophy, there was a belief that one could only conquer the "demon of emotions" with reason. To this day, reason, by which I mean conscious understanding, is worshipped - as if it were the holy grail.


In the late 1990s, neurologist Antonio R. Damasio was the first to focus on the measurability of emotions and discovered that they recognised situations long before conscious understanding. One of his experiments involved three stacks of cards, one of which was "dangerous." No matter the experimental setup, one always lost. However, by measuring stress activation in skin resistance, he demonstrated that the emotional memory recognized the "danger" long before conscious understanding.


Emotions are the result of electrical and chemical reactions to stimuli, processed through an evaluation check in the brain, ultimately giving rise to thoughts within the mind. Emotional and bodily memory are crucial; without them, we would remain undifferentiated, undeveloped beings.


Mental functions, nevertheless, are clearly understandable.


Healthy emotions and actions rely on the right chemical balance in the body. Moments of happiness are truly felt when happiness-hormones are present, making these joyful experiences tangible. These happiness-hormones act as carriers, delivering happiness to our cells. Our happiness system, known as the Motivational System in psychology, is genetically programmed to ensure that the neurotransmitters governing our lives are properly regulated. Nature has designed it so that our relationships with others are accompanied by emotions that help regulate hormonal levels in the body. For instance, when we trust someone, oxytocin is released in both bodies. Conversely, when we recount a distressing story, stress is triggered in both the speaker's body and the listener's body.


As we saw in the example of empathy (Blog from February 20, 2024), we begin adjusting neurotransmitters even before birth, with the help of hormones found in the mother's blood.


During the first six years of life, we establish the setpoints of four key happiness/motivational hormones, each with individual variability: oxytocin (or the acetylcholinergic system), the serotonergic system, the dopaminergic system, and norepinephrine (or the epinephrine system). However, it is important to note that we have the capacity to readjust the settings of these happiness hormones throughout our lives.




It is crucial for our sense of security that we reunite with our mother immediately after birth. This leaves a secure imprint in the brain, aiding in our ability to navigate new experiences. Throughout life, encountering new things often triggers fear, prompting us to learn and adapt to feel secure. Nature has equipped us with fear as a mechanism to prioritise our safety and well-being daily.


Exploring the Innate Happiness Hormone Levels Upon Birth


As a new-born, I cry out into the air, and my mother covers me, providing comfort. In that moment, I realise, 'I was cold.' When I cry again, my father comes, picks me up, and adjusts my position, bringing me comfort once more. Now I understand, 'I need a change in position.' Crying out once more, my mother arrives, breastfeeds me, and I feel content, recognising, 'I was hungry.' This pattern continues for the first six weeks of my life, until one day, I smile and realise, 'You're the one who cares for me!'—and empathy is born.


However, if I receive inappropriate responses, such as being breastfed instead of being covered when I'm cold, I don't feel comfortable after the meal, and I cannot comprehend that I was cold.


Without sufficiently good care, I lack awareness of my own needs, leading to limited empathy. If I cannot feel myself, I struggle to empathise with others.


Empathy can be measured in various ways. For instance, researchers can capture subjective assessments of experienced emotions through questionnaire surveys, document pupil activity using ultra-fast cameras, measure electrical activity patterns on the neuro-vegetative level, assess skin resistance, or analyse the activation of laughter or grief muscles. In laboratory settings, empathy can also be measured by monitoring the release of oxytocin.


Using such methodologies, researchers have discovered that mothers who lacked sufficient bonding experiences in their own childhood believed they could respond to their new-born's negative emotions with positive attention and comfort. However, their brains exhibited aggressive impulses when the new-born cried or they encountered difficulties with breastfeeding. This triggered a feeling of inadequacy in the mother, a sense that once again she was not good enough, that she didn't fit in. Consequently, she would act aversively and rejectingly toward the child, often without realising. Thus, the cycle continues, and the next generation of insecurely attached mothers is born.


Mothers who carry insecure attachment experiences within themselves have a significantly reduced ability to recognise their children's needs, unlike mothers who established secure attachment within the first few months of their child's life. It was also observed that mothers who were able to establish secure attachment during their early childhood more frequently recognised their children's needs.



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