Four Hungers, Four Fears

By Eric Kaufmann
Feb 9, 2017

Our life can be seen as an insatiable quest to assuage four hungers: hunger for safety, hunger for control, hunger for connection, and hunger for self-expression. Our fears, by extension, are the hunger pangs we experience when these needs go unmet. Hunger for safety yields fear of pain (or discomfort), hunger for control stirs up fear of failure, hunger for connection lays the groundwork for fear of rejection, and hunger for self-expression makes possible fear of humiliation.

Jake’s fear was rising at the edge of his comfort zone, and that was a rational response in the face of uncertainty and risk. But the difference you make as a leader is proportional to your willingness to face uncertainty and experience your inevitable fear. In particular, you need
courage to walk through these four fears:

Fear of pain or discomfort. Your safety concerns—hunger for safety—are primarily social and psychological, not physical. Jake’s fear of loss of livelihood was legitimate, but it had more to do with comfort than actual physical harm. What Jake feared was the stress of discomfort, likely to manifest as muscle tightness and headaches, a churning in the stomach that could ruin his appetite, and poor sleep and fatigue.

Fear of failure. Hunger for control is a drive for autonomy and an ability to
affect our environment. Each of us has a drive to influence our relationships, processes and results. We differ in the amount and intensity of power we crave; some of us tend to be more aggressive, others more passive. When we feel we can’t control what’s important to us, we
must face our fear of failure. It’s practically impossible to be a leader without staring regularly into the taunting face of failure.

Fear of rejection. Hunger for connection is a primordial force for humans,
and when connection is threatened, it gives rise to fear of rejection. In fact, an enduring punishment of social offenders is enforced disconnection: sending a child to her room, sentencing an adult to prison, giving a cold shoulder to a friend, or excommunicating a religious member. Jake masked his fear of rejection with a thinly veiled lie (“I don’t want to lose my
job . . .”), but in reality he was unwilling or unable to face his vulnerability.

Fear of humiliation. Hunger for self-expression includes creativity and
spirituality. This is the drive to know and show our skills, talents, value and uniqueness; when this hunger is blocked, we feel humiliated, small and worthless. We have a hunger to express what is inherently within us—our uniqueness and our creativity. We want to feel valued
for our intrinsic worth. We want others to see and know us, and we feel frightened at the prospect of humiliation and worthlessness.

What happens when these fears are triggered? As soon as anxiety clouded Jake’s passion, his reaction followed a common pattern: He instinctively contracted (made his thinking small), complained (found faults) and controlled (returned to the known). The reactive pattern can
play out in various ways (see the chart below), but facing the fear is always the healthy alternative.

To read more about how to embrace your fears and make a difference in others’ lives, please see “Finding the Courage to Lead” in the online IDEA Library or in the June 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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Eric Kaufmann

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