Human beings are governed by the pleasure and pain principle as described most elegantly by Sigmund Freud. Everything we do is either an effort to get pleasure or avoid pain.
This is a profound truth.
We may have different names, labels, or descriptions for pain, such as fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, boredom, and so on.
We also have many names and monikers for pleasure, such as courage, happiness, love, sense of achievement, and so on.
But no matter how you look at it, we all want to experience positive emotions and to avoid negative ones.
This is deeply connected to our most basic survival mechanisms.
Physical pain, the most basic form of negative emotion, must be avoided to keep us alive; and by the same token, we must satisfy our physical hunger for food.
Most Fear Is Healthy
Phobias are all about fear, and fear is a basic part of our survival mechanism.
We are programmed and wired at a primal level to experience fear—a powerful motivation for avoidance—toward anything in our external environment that is dangerous and poses a threat to our survival.
Our brain carries out this work of keeping us alive by building connections, linkages, and tie-ups between the various objects in our physical world and the pleasure and pain centers of the brain.
For example, if we took a fall and were hurt when we were young, our brain may associate pain to falling down or to high places.
The brain may even begin to send out signals of pain when we merely imagine ourselves falling from a high place!
If we had a pleasurable experience with our family at an amusement park, the brain will link pleasure to amusement parks or roller coasters.
Many of our fears are rational and serve to protect us throughout life.
For example, if your mother scolded you when you ran out into the street without looking, you may have developed a healthy fear of oncoming motor vehicles. This fear will cause you to look both ways before crossing the street, thus keeping you safe throughout your life.