On Fear, the Five Core Emotions, and Tribal Love

In our society, we expect a whole lot of ourselves. And a lot of what we expect doesn’t match the reality of how we feel and who we are.

When you talk about fear coming up, it right away takes us to the five core emotions. Fear is one of them. Another one of them is anger. Another one of them is love– tribal love, not romantic love, but tribal love. Another one is disgust, which is a little strange, perhaps, but I will explain. The fifth one is shame.

Take yourself back and imagine that you’re living in the wild somewhere. What do you need to survive? You need to know what to be angry at or about, so you can do something. But if that doing something isn’t going to work because what you’re angry with or about is too big for you—it could be a large wild animal; it could it could be a tornado coming—then, you need to know what to be afraid of. It goes right to fear. “Okay. I’m not able to conquer this with the emotion of my anger. What does my fear tell me to do? It tells me to run; it tells me to hide.”

Then you go to tribal love. That’s what keeps the tribe together. That’s what keeps you from being all alone—is that there is this basic need to come together with other human beings. If human beings aren’t there, then it’s going to be animals around you that you can make friends with. We all know stories of people who have been raised with wolves; such as that may be.

That is a core emotion: looking for where my tribe is. That comes out as a type of love.

Then we come to disgust. That’s a really basic, “No, don’t eat that. It’s icky.” That helps you survive. It helps you figure out how to nourish yourself without poisoning yourself and hurting yourself in some way. It also has some other applications—disgust—but primarily we can think of it in that kind of way; in terms of what to eat or not.

Then, there is shame. That’s probably the most interesting one, because we don’t tend to think of that as a core emotion. Shame is a way for the tribe to keep us with the tribe. It’s a way of saying, “No, you’re going a little too outside the limits here. Come on back.”

Most of us tend to have experienced shame as a really ugly, not constructive emotion at all. But at the basic level, all it is is an invitation to come back. And when you come back, if you’ve left the tribe, and then you start feeling ashamed about what you’ve done; about how you’ve been different from them perhaps in a way that’s not acceptable, you come back and the tribe welcomes you. “Oh, good! You’ve figured it out, and you came back.” So even shame does not need to be an emotion that we run from.

But we go back to the question of fear. It has a strong link to what we may be angry about, what anger first came up, that something was very overwhelming; and we wanted to do something about it, so we have the anger feeling. That generally comes up when you’re really little, and something goes wrong and you’re angry about it. But you’re little, and your anger is not going to serve you. So you begin to turn to the fear. “Okay, well I’m not going to go back there again, because that’s fearful.”

And fear begins to color your experience of life; your daily way of thinking and being. And you put it together with the other core emotions that we find, that are still within us, that are still in our lower brain; that are still the biggest part of our motivating; and yet in our culture right now, there’s not a lot of use for them, in the way that we could have used them before.

We turn them inward; we become angry with ourselves; fearful within ourselves; we don’t know quite who to love. We turn to romantic love like it’s going to save us. “If this person does not love me, I am going to die.” — Instead of having a larger tribe that protects us with that kind of love.

Then you go to disgust, and it probably applies in the same way: not eating anything.

You go to shame, and shame begins to color so much of our emotion. We don’t feel good enough, because we don’t know that tribal love. We don’t know who is calling us and telling us to come home. There kind of isn’t anybody, very often. So we tend to feel really alone. Being angry doesn’t serve us so much, so we do turn to that fear. Fear that we’re not going to be good enough; fear that this…that… all over the place. We can’t get on a plane and fly. Fear of being in crowds… It  goes on and on and on.  Put your own fear in there.

The thing that is most important for you to know is, number one, at the core of it, it’s a normal, natural thing. All the core emotions are there because they are normal and natural. And they are there to help you navigate as a human being.

So perhaps, for just a little bit, step back from that fear, for just a few minutes. Look at it as a little Fear Baby, and say, “Okay, Fear Baby. What is it that you’re telling me? You’re trying to give me information, and I’m taking you as something more sinister than that. But if all you’re doing is giving me information, then let me sit here for just a minute. I’m going to hold you.” Look down at your hands. Hold this little fear baby, and let him or her begin to tell you what the fear is about.

If the Fear Baby tells you that she or he is related to anger, then go back to the anger and do the same thing. Begin to see that these feelings that you have that are so strong, and that keep coming back, are there for your good. They’re trying to tell you something. Denying them, pushing them away, in no way helps the situation. It only lengthens the process of you finally coming to the point where all of your emotions are welcomed. You don’t have to act on any of them, but in their purest form, all of them are there to help you.

A note from LBC’s assistant, Liz: This blog post was transcribed from one of LBC’s video teachings. The video gives another layer of depth to these words. I recommend watching! Click here to go to the video page on YouTube.



One thought on “On Fear, the Five Core Emotions, and Tribal Love

  1. Margaret Janet Kelly

    Love this. I need to read often to grasp and internalize.. Important post for me. Thanks Laurie

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