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
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