“The Four Survival Fears”

Working with a client today, I suddenly realised it might be good to introduce her to the Adlerian Four Fears theory outlined by Nira Kfir, Head of the Tel Aviv Adlerian Institute. I was lucky enough to attend a lecture given by Nira Kfir in the late ’80s having qualified as a counsellor at the British Association of Social Psychiatry.

Kfir described that we as human beings have 4 fears, one that tends to predominate at any one time. We fear

  1. Conflict or confrontation
  2. Rejection or Abandonment
  3. Humiliation
  4. Insignificance

These are survival fears that lurk throughout our lives. Though human beings are ingenious. In the drive to overcome these fears we devise clever and highly creative solutions. Those of us who fear conflict or confrontation then become great ‘avoiders’, those who fear rejection learn to become ‘pleasers’, those with fears around humiliation develop abilities to be great ‘controllers’ and those with insignificance become highly ‘significant’ people.

Why did I introduce my client to this theory? Well, it has given her wonderful clues to explain why she and the people around her behave the way they do. And it gave her an insight into how to understand the people she was going to come across and negotiate with.

You can never know enough about what motivates people in order to understand how to lead and achieve influence. If you see a lot of ‘pleasing’ behaviour, then you will know that that person is anxious about being excluded, if you someone you are dealing with uses ‘offthetableitis’ as a tactic (ie changes the subject or refuses to discuss an issue), then you know that they are terrified of conflict. To repeat myself, these are survival fears – “if this happens, I don’t  know whether I’ll live”.

In my next blog, I’ll outline how to calm and balance these fears in yourself and manage them in others so that the behavioural solutions of avoidance, pleasing, control and significance become blessings rather than curses.


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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One Response to “The Four Survival Fears”

  1. Dear Anrah,
    Thank you so much for the direct and helpful insights of these blogs on fear. I am using these to help my coaching clients.

    Anjie Carpenter
    The Intimacy Coach

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