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Perhaps the most easily recognized fear is external fear. This type of fear is caused by something outside of you which you are strongly motivated to avoid. These fears are usually called phobias. Some examples of phobias, or extreme external fears, could include a fear of spiders, a fear of flying or a fear of rats.

Generally speaking, all of these fears tend to occur after some negative experience with them in the past.

For example, as a child I used find spiders fascinating. I would look at them in their webs, and collect them in jars. But one day, as I was trying to collect a spider from its web in my garden, it somehow managed to get on my finger, wrap its legs around my finger tip and then bite me!

I frantically tried to shake the spider off my finger for what seemed like an eternity. When I finally did remove it, I saw two small puncture marks where the spider bite had been made. I then quickly ran inside the house to see my mum.

Since that experience, plus a few other bad experiences with spiders (and the film Arachnophobia!), I soon learned to associate spiders with pain and discomfort. In other words, these bad experiences taught me that spiders were bad and that I should avoid them. They taught me to fear spiders.

Fortunately, external fears are relatively simple, in principle, to overcome, providing you have a lot of determination and courage. Later, we shall explore some techniques that you can use to overcome such fears.

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