“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” FD Roosevelt
An iconic statement, made by the 32nd president of the United States of America. But, it seems moot in today’s sense, where people have more to fear. We, humans, are wired to experience certain levels of fear. If we didn’t, there would be a chance that our life expectancy would be much lower than what it really is. Without fear, common sense does not exist and you would be more likely to engage in riskier activities. From birth, we have two fears; falling and loud noises. Everything else after that is taught or learnt through our senses. The more scared we are in our lives, the scarier things will appear.
Seems obvious, but if you already are in a state of fear, you are primed to be scared or jump at the slightest action, noise or movement more. Take for example, if you were to watch a documentary of a spider, and you are scared of spiders, that “tickle” across the back of your neck will make you jump a little higher. You do not need to initially be in danger to be scared. It's our ability to learn these fears and overthink them that leaves us more scared than normal. We think or imagine that something could happen to us, even though it may not.
From this understanding, neuroscientists believe that humans are amongst the most fearful creatures on the planet. Anxiety is not the same as fear. Fear is an emotion that is triggered by the presences of a threat. And when we experience this, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol. When the threat has passed, we calm down and return to a normal state. But, if the same threat that has scared us is gone, and our body is still under stress, we are experiencing anxiety. We can experience anxiety by thinking about things more than we should; such as being insecure, getting that job done on time, and much more.
As much as fear can be learned, It can be unlearned. We are not born with the fear of spiders, dogs, other humans, but some are scared of them for good reasons. And to tackle these fears, it is best to do it head-on. This is thanks to the wiring of our brain and its ability to evolve. We have millions of years of experience of evolving and adapting to our responses. Fear and anxiety can suppress your immune system. When we experience these, cortisol is a major hormone that is released and can suppress the immune system. This happens in the “fight or flight” mode. Your body wants to conserve energy at this point.
We also have the ability to sense other peoples fears. Neuroscientists have come to call this “mirror neutrons”, and allows us to feel what others feel, in a sense. If your friend or neighbour is in a negative mood, you can feel that and reciprocate. The same goes for fear, which leads to mass panic. Next time you're in a movie theatre, and you're watching a scary movie, you jump, everyone jumps with you.
Enjoy your popcorn.
Things that go bump in the night,
Shouldn’t give one a fright,
It’s this hole in each ear,
That lets in the fear, that,
And the absence of light
- Spike Milligan
Getting to know a thing or two about fear
Humans are wired to experience certain levels of fear. If we didn’t have to endure some level of fear, there’s a likely chance our life expectancy would be much lower than it is. Without fear, common sense goes completely out the window and you’re more likely to engage in riskier activities. Humans are born with only two fears: the fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises.
Everything else we fear, including things like spiders, snakes, and ghosts, are fears that we learn throughout our lives. The more scared you are, the scarier things will appear to be. I know that sounds obvious, but what I mean is that if you are already in a state of fear, you are primed to be scared or startled at even the smallest of things. For example, if you are watching a YouTube video of a trap door spider catching its prey, chances are that you’ll find that little tickle on your neck a hell of a lot scarier than you would if you weren’t watching that video.
You don’t need to be in any danger to be scared. We have the ability to learn fears and overthink them, which often leaves us being scared because we think something could happen or imagine that something might be happening even when it isn’t. It is for this reason that neuroscientists believe that humans are among the most fearful creatures on the planet.
Anxiety is not the same thing as fear. Fear is an emotion that is triggered by the presence or idea of something we see as a threat. When we experience this emotion, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol. When the perceived threat is gone, our bodies calm down and return to their normal state. When the thing that scares us is gone, but our body still releases stress hormones, we are experiencing anxiety.
We can suffer from anxiety when thinking of things such as getting an essay done on time, being insecure, so on and so forth. Just as fear can be learned, it can also be unlearned. We aren’t born with the fear of spiders, but a lot of people learn to be incredibly scared of them- for good reason.
However, someone who suffers from arachnophobia can unlearn their fear of spiders by facing their fear head-on. This is all because of how incredibly smart our brains are. We have the ability to learn and adapt to an amazing amount of things. Fear and anxiety suppress your immune system. When we experience these things, the hormone cortisol is released into our bodies and starts to shut down our immune system’s ability. This is done because when you’re in the “fight or flight” mode, your body wants to have as much energy available as possible.
We have the ability to feel other people’s fear. Things that neuroscientists are calling “mirror neurons” allow us to feel what other people feel, in a sense. For example, if someone is in a terrible mood, it can rub off on you and put you in a bad mood as well. The same goes for fear. It’s how mass panic can occur. The same goes for being in a movie theatre with a bunch of people while watching a scary movie. The simple fact that people around you are in a state of fear can have an impact on whether or not you are scared as well.
In the following article, I will discuss a little thing called courage and how you can use it to start to overcome your fears and tackle them head-on.