Freud’s View of Fear

Sigmund FreudIllustration by FlyBit43
Sigmund Freud
Illustration by FlyBit43

While many people can write a horror story, those who have a profound understanding of the emotions associated with horror will have a greater chance of writing a truly great horror story.  With that in mind, as tonight’s post I offer a comment from Dr. C. George Boeree on Freud’s view of fear, which he termed “anxiety”.   This quote is part of a longer articles which can be found at  I like the quote, because it explains Freud’s concept in a straightforward, simple, clear way that I can grasp easily.   I also like the quote because it gives me three different types of fear to instill in my audience vicariously.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, when someone reads a story, they are experiencing the events of that story vicariously.  As writers of horror, one of the primary emotions we want to instill is fear.   In this short comment, Dr. Boeree provides us with three flavors of fear we can instill in our audiences.

“The ego — the “I” — sits at the center of some pretty powerful forces: reality; society, as represented by the superego; biology, as represented by the id. When these make conflicting demands upon the poor ego, it is understandable if it — if you — feel threatened, feel overwhelmed, feel as if it were about to collapse under the weight of it all. This feeling is called anxiety, and it serves as a signal to the ego that its survival, and with it the survival of the whole organism, is in jeopardy.

“Freud mentions three different kind of anxieties: The first is realistic anxiety, which you and I would call fear. Actually Freud did, too, in German. But his translators thought “fear” too mundane! Nevertheless, if I throw you into a pit of poisonous snakes, you might experience realistic anxiety.

“The second is moral anxiety. This is what we feel when the threat comes not from the outer, physical world, but from the internalized social world of the superego. It is, in fact, just another word for feelings like shame and guilt and the fear of punishment.

“The last is neurotic anxiety. This is the fear of being overwhelmed by impulses from the id. If you have ever felt like you were about to “lose it,” lose control, your temper, your rationality, or even your mind, you have felt neurotic anxiety. Neurotic is actually the Latin word for nervous, so this is nervous anxiety. It is this kind of anxiety that intrigued Freud most, and we usually just call it anxiety, plain and simple.”

Undoubtedly, Jung had his own views of fear, with which I am not familiar, and other psychiatrists have theirs, and Freud’s views may well be outdated, or even proven wrong.  However, if we are to understand the nature of fear, Freud is a good a place to start as any.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Quote for February 7, 2013


Theodor Adorno

by Aleandro Gonzalez de Leon

I found the following quotation from the German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist Theodor Adorno at and thought I might share it.  I am often dubious of using a quote from a website, because I have seen a few that are obviously wrongly attributed, but whether or not Adorno actually said this, it is still interesting in its own right.  However, if he did say it, which is quite likely, it becomes even more interesting because of his background as a sociologist and philosopher.

“Horror is beyond the reach of psychology.”

I admit I am not familiar with Adorno or his works, but in light of the pyschological bent of my previous posts,  I am sure you will understand why I find it interesting.   Please let me know your thoughts on the quotation, on Adorno, and on whether this is actually one of his statements.