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Enyo & Phobos Drives: Fear and Terror


It would be easy to mistake the earlier drive Thanatos for fear. But they are very, very different. Death has a myriad of responses and reactions that go with it, and while fear for the sake of survival is certainly bound to our sense of mortality, it isn't the leading cause behind Thanatos. Thanatos relates to the human, and only human, understanding that death is an inevitability...that the world keeps turning when we're gone.


Phobos is plain old fear. Heights, spiders, snakes, clowns, the ocean, even things most would consider more innocuous like certain numbers or words, those all contribute to the Phobos drive. Culture lends a massive hand to fear. In Korea, some men are terrified their genitals will retract into their body. In 17th century Salem, people were terrified their neighbors were servants of the Devil.


The Enyos drive, however, is terror, and unlike Thanatos or Phobos, is often rational as a fear, but when it takes place is self destructive. A soldier fleeing enemy fire is rational, but fleeing during an advance and getting shot in the back is not. A woman fearing a house fire is rational, but when the fire breaks out, not leaving the wreckage out of sheer terror and burning alive is not....that is Enyos...the debilitating terror in the face of chaos that it is very difficult to prepare for.


So how can Enyos and Phobos be used in advertising? In a word, they can NOT. These are old drives unrelated to cognition. They can't be utilized, they can only be avoided. Stay away from cultural iconography that instills Phobos, like the number 4 in Japan and the number 13 in the West. For example: If Mercedes had a car called the Z13...it may sell in Asia, but mysteriously under-perform in Canada thanks to Phobos.


Similarly, a fireman soliciting donations could sell well if he mentions that "these brave men risk their lives everyday." If he said "these brave men may be what stands between your family and certain death one day." Not only would he NOT get positive responses, he'd probably get a few curse words and prompt hang-ups! This is because Enyos isn't a rational thing. We aren't rational creatures, no matter how hard we try to be, and understanding that is a powerful tool to avoiding both irrational behaviors (despite having irrational thoughts and feelings) and prompting better, more reasonable responses from others.


In short, fear doesn't sell, unless you're selling horror movie tickets. A rational work-around regarding fears, packaged in nice, safe delivery systems which allow for the slow and subconscious dealing of fear to the point that it can be approached by the conscious mind, THAT'S how you sell based on fear. You don't use Enyos and Phobos.....you take a detour around them.

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