We are wired for survival.
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A brain wired for survival:
A brain that avoids failure and prefers safety
Imagine if you lived 10,000 years ago. It's nightfall, and you're lying on a soft patch of grass about to fall asleep. Then you hear a rustling in the bushes.
You spring up from a sleepy state, ready to make a run for it. Your mouth goes dry (as it does today, when you are anxious or afraid). Your heart-rate increases. Unconscious to you, hormones (epinephrine, testosterone) are being cued up and produced. Your eyes dilate to see better. It could be a sabretooth tiger, waiting to make you dinner.
When you are afraid, you start going into fight or flight mode. Your body starts prioritising what is needed for immediate survival - screw routine body functions, if you don't make it past the next few moments there won't be a routine to return to. You stop digesting food. Cell repair slows or stops. You stop producing saliva, which is why your mouth goes dry when you're nervous just before making a speech or going into a difficult conversation. Your heart rate and breathing increase to ensure better blood flow. A cocktail of hormones like epinephrine and oxytocin are cued up and produced, which amplifies your body's ability to act (and remarkably, in the case of oxytocin, reminds you to seek help).
Don't be mistaken about what happens when you feel fear. Your body is readying itself to help you face what you fear in the way it knows how.
What causes us to feel fear?
1) Fear occurs to us unconsciously. Do you pause to think, hey, very angry looking snake! Maybe I should be scared. Of course not, it would be too late! Fear becomes much clearer when we examine what happens inside your brain. When you are afraid, the fear/anger/aggression/anxiety centre of your brain - the amygdalas (get used to this name, it's gonna keep popping up) lights up. And we've covered all the changes that happen in your body: your blood pressure, your hormones, your heart-rate. But remember how amygdala is like a train interchange with direct routes to different parts of your brain? There is a direct neural link between our amygdala and your pre-frontal cortex, the rational thinking part of your brain. And if we look closely enough or we think things through, sometimes we realise, argh! it's not an angry snake, it's just a prank toy that your annoying friend had thrown at you. Or if you've handled angry snakes enough times, your amygdala does not light as much. Your blood pressure and your heart rate do not increase as much, you realise what you need to do is to stay calm and slowly back away.
Finally, notice how fear, anger, aggression, and anxiety are processed by the same part of the brain, the amygdala. This is no coincidence. These 4 emotions are closely tied to one another; aggression maybe triggered because one is nervous, angry, or fearful. Being fearful may cause one to react angrily, as a self-defense mechanism. Fear, like all our emotions, happens to us. Mostly, we can't control how it originates. But we can control how it develops by understanding what exactly is causing fear and by choosing the response that dispels it
2) We fear what we are unconfident or uncertain about. Think back on your ancestors doing something they weren't confident or certain off - hunting a massive animal without a weapon, or eating a berry they've never seen before. Doing so would mean a very high chance of seriously harming themselves. Today, after many cycles of evolution, we have been wired based on these experiences.
Think about it. Are you ever fearful of something you've done before, and are good? Brushing your teeth, putting on your clothes, indulging in your favourite hobby (whatever it is)? Of course not. You know you can perform these functions easily. You are confident.
But many of us would have felt fearful and anxious the first time we ventured into something new: using a pair of chopsticks, riding a bicycle, swimming, going on a first date. We were uncertain about these functions, and we were not confident about performing them. However, once we have demonstrated to ourselves that we are able to perform these tasks, we are no longer afraid. The same applies to more challenging tasks. Some of us struggle with: public speaking, starting a business, having a very difficult conversation with the CEO... You are uncertain and unconfident if you can succeed. But once you have proven to yourself you are able to do it, even for the more challenging tasks, you are no longer afraid. People might start off feeling scared about public speaking, but after speech 3797, you're pro The catch, of course, is that sometimes, we are too scared to start.
Even if we were certain of something OR confident about something, many of us will still feel some amount of fear. We might be theoretically certain how we should use a pair of chopsticks, but if we have never succeeded in using them properly, we remain unconfident and will still feel nervous if we had to use them, especially when others are observing. You might also be confident about
3) we fear what is painful. Boxer. climbing 100 flights of stairs or doing 100 burpees. But pain is not just physical but mental. Failure is painful. Being judged is painful.
This is why you procrastinate. You either fear what you have to do bevause you don't know how to do it (you don't fear brushing your teeth for example), or you fear doing something becaue you know it will be effortful
4) we fear what we cannot control
Fear and anxiety are the free advisors that life bestows on you once you're born . They stick with you tirelessly through thick and thin always eager to yell advice, telling you what to do and what not to do. Sometimes they help us: fear has kept the human race going - motivating our ancestors to run and find safer locations, away from sabretooth tigers and other predators. It is also fear and anxiety that yells at us when we are not well-prepared, warning us that there might be trouble ahead, keeping us humble.
It's no surprise that biologically, humans are wired to be very good at fear and anxiety. In fact, part of your brain (and quite a major part at that) is specifically dedicated to fear and anxiety (together with their close cousins, anger and aggression). This part of your brain is called the amygdala, which functions like a major interchange station for trains, with priority routes to many other parts of your brain.
For example, when our 5 senses pick up on something new, this information is sent to the Thalamus which assesses which part off the brain is most suitable to further analyse it. However, if the new information contains something that might be fear-inducing, there is a neural short-cut (known as an amygdala hijack) from the thalamus straight to the amygdala, which then sounds a warning alarm and forces you to react. Imagine you are just lazing on the couch scrolling through your phone. Suddenly, someone throws a snake at you! You jump up and scream in fear. And then you take a closer look... it's actually a rope. Someone played a prank on you. In fact, something similar happened so often in ancient China they came up with an idiom specifically for this: 一朝被蛇咬，十年怕井绳 (translation: once bitten by a snake, we develop a 10 year fear of anything snake-like, even a rope).
The amygdala also has a direct link with your pre-frontal cortex, the analytical, rational part of your brain. Remember when you watched a horror movie? You know that when the eerie music starts playing someone is going to be haunted by a ghost. Or when we sat on a roller-coaster? You were going to drop very quickly from a very point. We knew what was going to happen. It was not a surprise. We knew that after the activity ended, we will not be harmed. We will be safe and sound and the same as we were before. And yet we were scared out of our minds. Your amygdala was happy to work overtime and suspended your rational thought. Like all emotions, this happens without your control - you don't need to tell yourself to be scared or worried or sad or happy (unless you are pretending!). Otherwise, the emotions happen as a response to what is happening to you, whether you want it or not.
Learn more about your amygdala, the amygdala hijack, the thalamus, the pre-frontal cortex, and how your brain works here.
- Fear and anxiety (and anger + aggression) are always
What has been the
There even though the part of our brain processing fear has largely remained the same. Instead of sabretooth tigers, today most of us live in large societies. We fear failure because if there is a chance of failure, i is something we are weak at. Did you have some fear the first time you went on the internet or the first time you drove on the road? probably. But after 100 times, you no longer fear this because we are confident of the outcome.
We fear failure because of uncertaitny. Awfulising. It is easier and nautral for you to think of why you shoudl be fearful than why you should not be fearful.
We also fear failure because of conformity. If someone else has done it before, surely they have put thought into it. What odes it mean if i went against society or what others are doing? And conforming is not always a bad thing. we follow everyone else by brushing our teeth before and after we go to sleep. There's no need for us to re-figure out a path because this works. The problem though is that sometimes we conform even if it doesnt make sense
Fear is automatic. It triggers whether we like it or not.
Fear warns us about uncertainty; you don't fear walkin down the street, but you get fearful and anxious walking in a new
Your fear is instant.
Example, snake/rope. Rollercoaster.
You have an amygdala just for this
But what as you can see there is no rational bit to this
You just feel fear
What if your asssssment was wrong?
Man fear of flying
What do you actually fear?
Lack of control
Talk sharot example on climate change
Fear of judgement. We prefer to conform even if it doesn't make sense