What is fear? Why are we afraid of certain things? First, let’s agree that there’s a big difference between having a fear and being afraid. Fear is a rational or irrational perception to danger, whereas to be afraid is an active response to that fear. And if it happens to be an irrational fear, it’s referred to as a phobia. Phobias are considered irrational because they usually stem from a fear of something that doesn’t actually and/or usually present genuine danger, such as clowns or spiders.
Even if on the face of it these things won’t harm anyone, a person with a phobia of such things will usually go to great lengths to avoid them. This often leads to being made fun of by friends and associates, especially if they have no phobias themselves. But let’s focus on fears, as this is the topic of today’s post. The human brain is an incredibly complex machine, and it holds a great many mysteries, even in today’s advanced environment of science.
Physically-speaking, fear is rooted in a region of the brain called the amygdala. I won’t get too specific on THOSE details, especially since I haven’t studied medicine and I’m likely to fuck something up. On the “non-physical” level, fear stems partly from experience. This means that you’ve been exposed to something that was taught to you. For example, if a child sees their parent reacting in fear of something they’ll likely learn to be afraid of that particular thing as well.
But some of it is born of a primal, prehistoric instinct that’s still buried deep inside your brain. Have you ever walked through a dark basement? Ever notice that tickle at the base of your spine, as though someone or something is watching you? Even if your basement has four, bare walls with nowhere to hide, that feeling is still there. This is born of an animal instinct that teaches us to be wary of predators, which are more likely to take us by surprise in the dark. Or maybe it’s the ghosts in your house. Who knows? But that’s a post for another day.
The point is, fear is healthy. It teaches us a proper level of caution as we navigate the world and keeps us from doing stupid things (mostly). Being fearless doesn’t mean a person HAS no fear but rather how they deal with said fear. According to an article I found on Psychology Today (one of my favourite sites), you don’t actually need to be in danger in order to be scared. Sometimes fear can stem simply from the thought of what COULD happen.
At the end of the day, everyone has a fear of something, even if we’re unaware of what that fear may be. There are ways of dealing with one’s fears, such as facing them, therapy and in extreme cases, medication. But the reality is that some fears are a good thing. They’re part of our survival instinct and fears are what helped us get as far through history as we have. But succumbing to certain fears have also led to some of history’s worst practices, such as with trials. Acknowledge your fears but don’t indulge them. This can mean the difference between screaming when you see a spider or appreciating their presence in your home (mine is named Hubert). ☯