Fear is our body’s response to threats. Signals are sent from our brain to different parts of the body to help us adapt to the threat in order to survive it. When we encounter something we fear: be it a spider or snake, our bodies quickly go into the flight-or-flight mode so we can overcome it.
Several instantaneous actions happen when we face something that scares us. First, our brain function is taken over by the amygdala, which initiates the flight-or-flight response. This emotional response allows us to decide in an instant whether we should stay and fight or run away. Your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will all increase, sending more oxygen into your system and moving blood away from vital organs.
When it comes to instinctive fears, many in the scientific community believe that a fear of falling and loud noises are both innate. Other fears like spiders and snakes may be the result of evolution, where over time our species has learned that these animals may be poisonous and cause us harm.
While there are fears that may be there on day 1, some fears are obviously learned behavior. Most of what we are afraid of as adults comes from seeing our parent’s responses to something that scares them. For example, we may not be afraid of rats, but after witnessing our mother or father’s reaction to a rat as a child, gives us that fear moving into adulthood.
Some fears are also born because of an experience during our childhood or even adulthood. Certain traumatic events that happen can cause fears to emerge that otherwise may not exist. Something as simple as watching a scary clown movie as a child can create a fear of clowns, even though they, for the most part, are not scary. PTSD responses are another associative fear. A soldier may fear a backpack because while in battle they saw one explode. Their rational mind knows that the backpack won’t hurt them, but their first reaction to that stimulus is extreme and very real.
Taking Control of Our Fears
Human beings, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, are able to discern the actual danger of what caused the flight-or-flight reaction. We can determine whether or not something is actually going to hurt us and calm ourselves down, moving into the rest-and-digest system. One way we can really take control is by seeking out what frightens us and becoming desensitize to it. If your fear is debilitating and affecting your life, it might be best to reach out to a professional. Check out my tips on finding a therapist to really take control of the fear.