fear management systems (2)


"I'm very grim, and down and out," says Emeritus professor Cornel West in a recent interview. He was responding to Anderson Cooper's (CNN host) about the current Trump rally in the US and people chanting to "send her home" referring to a Congress Woman (of color). Indeed, West has long been a Left intellectual and anti-racist advocate and scholar and he is no doubt reflecting a mood many are feeling in the USA and a lot of the world that has strong racist-right-wing elements rising to power these days. 

Why doesn't Cornel West, this great liberation (populist, intellectual) leader of our times talk about "fearlessness"? [1]

Of course, relevant to the Fearlessness Movement, I ask myself if Cornel West is a proponent of "fearlessness" in his philosophy, his Christianity, his radical left Black activism? And, upon my preliminary searching I found, just like in his recent talk with Cooper, he barely mentions fear itself and when he does he usually is talking about angst and nihilism (as loss of hope and growth of meaninglessness) as a collective dis-ease in American society. Fear as a term is never usually mentioned more than 5 times in any of West's many books, and best sellers. I wonder why? And, in his recent talk with Cooper he will admit he is "down and out" in psychic temperament in relation to the rise of White Supremacism ideology in his country (again). He's old and tired, but he's not without a bit of spirit to fight. So, next after his grim response he says to Cooper and the audience that (paraphrasing) 'we must in this time especially have moral fortitude and courage' and that's what he and all the down-trodden people have always had when they are oppressed and the fight will continue until they find their victory and justice, no matter what happens in the meantime. 

"Moral courage" is the fav phrase in West's discourses, which has a long tradition (e.g., black liberation theology) in the justice movements of history. I see this as a particular fear management system (FMS-5 with some FMS-6)--and, it is basically modernist. It is about the individual (and society) under oppression fighting back and not letting fear of oppressors, nor internalized fear destroy you and your integrity and your will to keep fighting back, even if the odds are tremendously against you gaining much in the bigger political world. "Hope" is also his fav concept to accompany "moral courage." This is the basis of ethical philosophy behind West's popularity and stardom. He attracts great followings of people from the Left especially, and I'm noticing a lot of young men are really admiring West's character and intellectual prowess--and, see him as a hero in the nightmares of the times of post-truth bullshit that is invading most all of America day to day. The young men are scared as I see it, and rightfully so, and they are looking for leaders who speak to them and impress them as having the 'best' analysis. And, true, West is "brilliant" and "warm" and "sharp" at the mouth. He's very hip too! 

But my critique is that "moral courage" is not sufficient to deal with Fear's Empire, the 'Fear' Matrix of which America and the rest of the world is being swallowed up and coded into moment by moment. Moral courage, hope, and love, as the prophetic voice has always offered since ancient times, right up to the present modernist values and virtues of a Christian like West, are helpful, but not enough; from a fearlessness meta-psychological perspective, that is [2]. Listen to West (from his best selling book Race Matters (1993/2017):

"Being a hope is being in motion, on the move with body on the line, mind set on freedom, soul full of courage, and heart shot through with love. Being hope is foraging moral and spiritual fortitude.... being willing to live and die for the empowerment of the wretched [oppressed] of the earth." (p. xxiv) [3].

For three decades, I have advocated and argued, that if one trully penetrates into the nature and role of fear, across the spheres of Natural, Cultural and Spiritual realities, from a critical holistic-integral perspective--then, fearlessness will be understood like never before too. This new understanding of fear and fearlessness repositions many things from a moral and ethical and philosophical perspective--and, one major outcome is that when operating from Fearlessness there is no need to constantly boost "hope" and "love" and "empowerment" as does the modernist approach to activism and liberation. I am not dissing these modernist and even premodernist traditions of liberation, I am merely claiming they are largely out-dated and need a serious upgrade. And, that critique, no matter how much I publish and speak about it is still largely ignored by West, and so many of his contemporaries. 

As much as I so respect Cornel West as a leader today, it is disturbing he has not picked up on the great liberation traditions (at a minimum) and thus talked a lot more about fear and fearlessness. As I said, less than 5 pages in any of his books is on "fear" and when he talks about it usually it is rather thin and about "fears" --not seeing that the entire study of fearism-t (at the base of all oppression - ism diseases) requires so much more than moral courage, hope and love. It requires an incredibly systematic study of fear itself (and 'fear', as I argue)--it requires Fearlessness which is a meta-psychology (and philosophy) and methodological re-orientation that directs our gaze and analysis to something much deeper at-cause of our worst human behaviors, individually and collectively. Fear is not a factor, as West makes it out to and as that modernist discourse does as well. Talk about a "culture of fear," a "fear lens" a 'Fear' Matrix, etc., and then we'll realize we are up against an enormous power and complex of external and internal structures in everyday life that keep us "afraid" and, to then, even at times encourage us to thus be "courageous"--but, the latter encouragement actually supports us being more afraid so that we'll develop more courage--it's an ironical productive cycle of 'Fear' as oppression itself. That's not the kind of critical self-reflection you will find amongst the Left (or West) of their very notion of "moral courage" (and hope and love) and how they too are tainted already from the start when one lives in Fear's Empire. Everything is tainted with fear ('fear')--and that's what makes an oppressive society work so well (said, in sarcasm). So, no, I am not big advocate for "courage" alone as a fear management system (discourse) that will get us very far with liberation on the scale and with the depth I am talking and theorizing about. 

Unfortunately, I have learned that people don't want to do the work of discovering Fearlessness in this meta-context I propose and teach about. I am no celebrity, like a West, and likely never will be, but I will live and die attempting to show people we can do better than "moral courage" discourses and actions--even if, I admit, those may be better than nothing--but I will argue, they are going to be 'too little too late' unfortunately. That's a larger conversation, I'm always glad to engage with you all. 


1. I have tried email contacting him and sharing with him my work but to no avail, he typically doesn't respond or engage the work. Only once did I find in several of his books one reference where he used "fearlessness" (per se), and that was in his talking about his appreciation of the "New Black Panther Party.... they have a certain fearlessness like Malcom [X]" (West & Buschendorf, 2014, n.p.). But West doesn't define the term. See West, C., & Buschendorf, C. (2014). Black prophetic fire. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. See also my criticism of American pragmatist philosophy (Fisher, 2015) in general and its domination of American ideas, culture and society, of which I find Cornel West is susceptible to in his discourse (and ideology): Fisher, R. M. (2015). What is the West’s problem with fearlessness? Technical Paper No. 53. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

2. I am currently writing a new book "A Fearlessness Meta-psychology" for the 21st century. See also my Fisher, R. M. (2019). Fearlessness psychology: An introduction. Technical Paper No. 79. Calgary, AB: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.  

3. West, C. (2017). Race matters, 25th anniversary. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 

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Fear Management System (FMS)-4

 The following is my quickie fearanalysis of Anderson and Miller (2001). Their Christian approach (manual) to "freedom from fear" is interesting, though very familiar to me, as I have seen many examples just like it, all coming out of the religious form of FMS-4. To help guide you through this, I've provided an up-dated summary of how to recognize the features of FMS-4, then I give an example from their book and critique it. This is of course, all very brief and inadequate to make a full critique but it shows you how I think, for what it's worth. I look forward to any conversation we may enter around this.

[Nutshell version: basic Fear Management Systems Theory (a la Fisher)[1] is based on an integral worldview perspective of development whereby each system (e.g., FMS) developed under a set of conditions (including consciousness) and developed the best means possible at the time--establishing marvellous, viable and healthy practices of fear management; but over time, often under changing conditions, often due to collective accumulation of trauma and system errors, the intelligence and strengths of a particular FMS diminished—found lacking by many, and were, more or less, incapable to meet the new demands and growth; thus often it became partially and/or largely pathological (unhealthy), while simultaneously a new FMS was evolving to meet the demands of the new conditions for survival and thriving growth and development. Each FMS therefore, has a healthy side and an unhealthy side; it is our task today to learn to recognize and discern both sides, and make informed decisions to utilize the best of the intelligence of each FMS (between 0 – 9), and toss the worst, along the spectrum of possibilities, as we learn, individually and collectively, to better manage fear on this planet]


Mythic-Membership (Belonging and Conforming-Identity) – Blue v-meme – Communal – Ethnocentric and Sociocentric Consciousness

In-Group vs. Out-Group; Moralism = Right vs. Wrong; Patriarchal 

Emerged c. 12, 000 years ago, Beginning of Farming-Mode

Around 5000 years ago in the West began Dominator Culture

(and some forms of Monotheism)


Blue Fear Story (Cosmology)Religious Form- as first, “the original” (e.g., Biblical) and powerful disturbing negative feeling/emotion (a “suffering” punishment, like pain) from the mythic “Fall” of some kind; therefore the human condition is flawed (impure) and less than “ideal” (i.e., less than “divine,” than “essence”) due to a rebellion/sin against some authority-figure (e.g., Law, God, Authority, Father, Nation/State), which is seemingly inherent in human nature due to egoic arrogance (hubris or pride); thus “fear of God” is the only salvation (freedom from fear and suffering) via a return to humbleness once again as the virtue to counteract the vice of arrogance (i.e., human character flaw); Secular Form- (see, e.g., Thomas Hobbes, 18th century Europe)

 Fear Management/EducationReligious Form- although it recognizes “fear is natural” (or “normal”) because it seems useful for activating survival/defense capacities (e.g., courageousness), though the actual focus of attention is to ensure early childhood learned-conditioning of “social fear” (i.e., low-grade, barely recognizable, chronic social anxiety in confrontation with the persistent surveillance systems of the Divine/Authority/ State/Family and general Social Order as unquestioned beliefs and values called Tradition); one learns the safety/protection and self-esteem gained by the in-group (e.g., less fear being with a larger number of like-same-members) they belong to and identify with; yet, also fear and its cousins guilt and shame are learned as well and are associated with the dangers of punishment (ultimately via God) by forms of social abuse, sacrifices, isolation/alienation and exclusion (violence and terrorization) that will come rapidly if one transgresses the social-religious-sacred taboos (written or unwritten codes, rules and regulations and laws of Tradition); the latter punishment by fear-based means is offered by the Social Order enforcement fear-based systems under the name of this is because ‘we really love you,’ ‘tough love,’ and ‘this is for your own good’ (aka: meaning, it is done for the good of maintaining the Tradition of the in-group as priority value); defends Right and Wrong to the death using fear-tactics to suppress, oppress and/or eliminate; one must have “moral courage in battle” to fight (sacrifice the self) for the communal Right (i.e., our-side = right-side); one is encouraged into a paradoxical (contradictory) position: that is, to seek “freedom” from fear of one’s enemies, earthly existence, and of humans themselves—and, at the same time, as appropriate to the wishes of the Authority, never try to be free from fear of God (or the secular Ruler or Father of the House); Secular Form- (see e.g., Terror Management Theory a la Ernest Becker)

Example of Fear Education (pedagogy)- Religious Form- a contemporary Christian book entitled Freedom from Fear[2] opens with:

 "What are the differences between anxiety, fear, and panic attacks? In order to live a healthy productive [Christian] life, every child of God needs adequate answers to these critical questions. Let’s start by defining terms." (p. 17)

 First, in the above quote (Anderson & Miller, 2001), there is a decidedly modern (FMS-5)[3] aspect to this gaining a kind of modern day scientific (i.e., clinical psychology) knowledge (as an individual) about fear in order to manage it better—doings so by using definitions and distinctions that secular philosophy discovered first, then secular psychology (‘science’) discovered regarding the distinctions of anxiety, fear and panic. The authors however then retreat from FMS-5 discourse, to FMS-4 in the second sentence, and one can hear the complete Authoritative (conservative) tone it carries in that the human “needs adequate answers” (pre-determined and given as prescriptions by the authors, and the Bible, by Christian religion = Authorities of a Tradition). FMS-4 is characterized by this social conformity to knowledge passed down by legitimate (social-religious) Authorities (God being the ultimate carrier of the Truth). Implied in the second sentence in using “adequate” is “correct” (i.e., Biblically correct, meaning, the right answers because only we are after God’s truth, the one and only Truth, one and only God).

FMS-4 does not typically encourage individuals to think very critically about the knowledge (i.e., ‘Truth’) passed down from Tradition. The authors, as legitimate Christians, are obliged to provide the “adequate answers” and learners are to receive them in good faith, without doubt, without learned critique, but take them and let their heart make the best of them rather than heads. Thus, FMS-4 characteristically focuses on how we flawed, suffering, fearful, and ‘sinful’ humans need answers that are already available, rather than suggesting we humans need adequate questions to pursue our inquiry into the topic of freedom from fear and how best ought we define fear, etc. No, the Program (curricula) is already pre-packaged in FMS-4. After very little time (or theory) about defining fear and making distinctions, FMS-4 focuses on practices (i.e., prescriptions, rules) to follow—and, there are usually always 12-step programs, or in this book, a 7-step program (‘Steps to Freedom in Christ’)  to “freedom from fear”; and behind it all, is to give over all your fear(s) to the “higher authority” (e.g., in Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program)—in this book, so you no longer have to worry about fear(s) and do so by several prescriptions and ultimately by praying: “We call upon Jesus, the ultimate authority, and He escorts [fear] the enemy of our souls out of our lives” (p. 339).[4]

[Reminder: FMS theory argues, as well there is empirical evidence, that each FMS, including this FMS-4, actually work quite well—but, not on everyone, nor in every environment or circumstance; the big (pathological) problem comes, when FMS-4 or any other one kind of FMS (becomes arrogant and intolerant of difference, as a system) trying to dominate all other forms of fear management/education and even denying they exist because there is no other Right way to understand fear and how to best manage it; Integral worldview (v-meme Yellow) and FMS-7 (Fearlessness) is the first evolved level of consciousness that begins to see this error of arrogant and intolerant FMSs because it sees the entire spectrum of 0-9 possibilities of how to best understand and manage fear; FMS-7, which I operate from and critique from, is also not merely about relativism as integralism is often confused with by people who have not studied integral theory; FMS-7 and integral thinking are critical of only relativism or pluralism and argues we need discernment of "better" in both horizontal and vertical means--that, unfortunately, is more complex than what I can explain here]

[1] See Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world’s fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD.

[2] Anderson, N. T. (2001). Freedom from fear: Overcoming worry and anxiety. London: Monarch Books.

[3] In reading only the last dozen pages, and few at the beginning, I am able to rather quickly grasp the discourse formation that is dominant in the book and what fear management system dominates it as well. I also saw FMS-2 and even some FMS-9. Though, I won’t discuss those sub-dominant FMS discourses here in this brief introduction (for general FMS theory, see Fisher, 2010).

[4] Priority of value in FMS-4 is always on the (social-religious) Authority as the only ultimate source of Love and where to devote one’s love—for example, the prayer is offered in this book “You are the only all-powerful and only wise God. You are kind and loving.... I love You and than You.... I choose not to love the world or the things [e.g., nature] in the world, and I crucify the flesh and all its passions” (p. 341). This is characteristic of the transcendental philosophy of religious expression/ consciousness at FMS-4. We can debate how healthy or unhealthy such a prayer (belief) is or not.

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