Fear is one of our primal instincts. The fear response arises from the perception of danger from which we either confront(fight), escape(flight) or becomes paralyzed (freeze) – the fight-flight-freeze response gets activated. Though fear is part of human nature most fears are learned responses to our past conditioning. From childhood, we are cautioned and terrorized about the big bad world out there that we no longer feel confident to fulfill our potential. We end up becoming frightened, bitter, disillusioned individuals blaming the world for our misfortunes. Fear primarily comes in three flavors: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and fear of looking stupid. Fear affects the brain in ways that negatively affect perception and limits the ability to take effective action.
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/users/sasint-3639875/
Effects of Fear
In her book, The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage As Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul, self-help author Lissa Rankin, explains how being afraid can make us sick. Studies have shown that if fear is not addressed it can seriously affect our health putting us at risk factor for developing heart disease, diabetes or cancer. Fear causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol which increases pulse, blood pressure and affects other physiological responses. The secretion of these stress hormones leads to a variety of metabolic changes all over the body. Our digestive and immune systems are severely compromised. The effects of chronic wear-and-tear on the human body take their toll, and we wind up sick. High cortisol levels are tied to the deterioration of the hippocampus and decline of memory The state of constant fear slowly destroys not just also our body but our mind. Strangely though, it is not an actual threat that causes us to be afraid how we perceive the potential danger that affects our mental disposition. And unfortunately, most of us have been wired to be fearful.
In order to change the paradigms of our lives, we need to change the encoded wiring in our brains. The immobilizing fearful feelings that our parents handed down to us. How does one do that? The weapon to fight our fears is by developing courage. Easier said than done. However, by taking one step at a time we can start tackling the fearful monsters in our mind. Dr. Jordan Peterson states that to live fearlessly we need to start telling our truth and let go of the outcomes and consequences. And if we keep at it doing it again and again, we become more and more competent. Competency gives us confidence, the backbone of courage.
According to Yang Dang a professor of neurobiology at the University of Berkley “A Single Neuron Can Change the Activity of the Whole Brain.” Dan and her colleagues came to their findings by studying how large-scale brain wave patterns influenced a connection between two singular neurons, knowing that repetitive patterns create groove-like electrical pathways that could get stronger over time. Yes, practice makes us perfect. Taking one step at a time, moment by moment, every day. We may have to start by faking how we feel but gradually it starts becoming part of our normal behavior. It may be difficult to control our thoughts and the subsequent feelings they generate, but we can control our behaviors. if you force yourself. By just Doing It, we overcome our emotional lizard brain. Gradually, you will realize that you don’t have to think about an action which once caused you fear.
Amy Cuddy TED Talk – Fake it Till You Make it
All of us suffer from feelings of fear in strange situations or challenging conditions. However, we need not try to escape or be cowed down. We need to understand that failing is part of our learning process and acknowledge our fears. It is imperative to free ourselves from the boundaries of our earlier indoctrination – one act at a time. So stand up now and slay that fearful monster.
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle