Where Does Fear Come From?

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Have you felt it? The cold sweats, racing heart beat, foggy brain; of course you have. Fear is an integral part of the human survival and we’ve been experiencing it for over 100,000 years.

But where does fear come from? Is it as important as it always was and if not, how can we change it? The experience of fear is generated in a part of our brain called the amygdala. This area of our brain is also know as the reptilian brain and is the area present in nearly all types of animals. It has been responsible for the state known as fight or flight and causes our adrenal glands to produce high amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone.

When our bodies release cortisol this causes the blood in our brain and organs to rush to our limbs to prepare for action. This makes our thinking process become slow and foggy. It also causes the sugar in our muscles to get dumped into the blood stream to be used to immediate energy. This is incredibly useful when we’re getting attacked by predators or need to escape danger.

The challenge here is that it’s pretty seldom we’re actually in a situation where we need to fight or flight. In our modern age situations that cause fear are more likely emotional than physical. So how can we change our body’s reaction to fear?

We can start by understanding why we have fear in the first place. For 100,000 years humans have lived in tribes of about 30-50. The tribe would be responsible for providing food, shelter and companionship. It would also provide protection against other tribes and predators.

When a tribal member acted unsatisfactory and was exiled from the tribe this would surely mean death. This fear was so real that our brains have actually adapted to associate the fear of rejection to the fear of death. Public speaking, shyness on dates and nervousness before a job interview are all examples of a fear of rejection and ultimately lead to the fear of death.

Of course, we’re not going to die when we bomb a job interview or mess up speaking publicly so it’s important for us to understand where these fears are generated and try to calm ourselves down when these fight or flight reactions start to occur. Through understanding the physiological reactions to fear as much as the psychological origins we can start to work on overcoming our own fears and living to our full potential.

by Verda

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