Fear is an emotion that science has proven to be basic to all human beings from birth, regardless of race, culture, or any other socio-economic factors. It is said that our basic emotions evolved by making us more capable of survival when subjected to threatening and harmful events.
Some emotions are so primitive and ingrained in us that they have been described as ‘hardwired’, with each basic emotion corresponding to a distinct and dedicated neural pathway. Being hardwired, basic emotions are innate and universal, automatic, and fast, and they trigger our behavioural responses.
There can be no doubt that fear can be a lifesaver at the appropriate times. It can propel us into quick action when necessary and keep us out of harm’s way when the threat is real. The ‘fight-or-flight’ response is considered a fear reaction and there are numerous uncontrollable physiological events that take place to enable this to occur. Fear is an emotion that can save our lives.
On the other hand, fear can be a counterproductive or even a destructive emotion if linked to threats that are irrational and imagined.
One of the most difficult challenges of being human is to be able to recognise how our minds can play tricks on us and make us believe unreal fear is real. More importantly, when we are fearful, we are tuned into the lower and more primitive parts of our brains. When tuned into the lower aspects of our brains, we give up any choice as our actions become reactive and instinctual.
There are many different types of fears and each has its own unique effects on human lives. Some of the most commonly recognised types of fear in our society are fear of flying, public speaking, heights, the dark, intimacy, death, failure, rejection, spiders and snakes, commitment, claustrophobia, and drowning.
There are others that could be added to the list which are far more insidious by nature and difficult to define. When we can put a label on the fear that affects us, the fear is more tangible and we can face it or avoid situations where we might be subjected to them.
From a personal perspective, I am very claustrophobic for whatever reason and I will not get myself into tight or closed places. Why I have this fear is unknown to me as I have no memory of ever being trapped or stuck somewhere that might have created this fear. I am definitely hardwired with this fear. Being very analytical by nature, I have pondered this irrational fear and don’t have a clue as to where it came from. If I was born with this fear, what was the reason?
There are fears that we may have which can run our day-to-day lives. For example, we can have a generalised fear of life’s process and have an uneasy feeling for the future.
This negative view of life can affect our attitudes and alter our perceptions. We can agree that a negative attitude produces negative results in many situations. Volumes have been written about having a positive attitude and I would concur in principle.
The main issue I have with concentrating on adjusting your attitude is that it doesn’t help with uncovering the source of the problem. A person with a bad attitude can’t just switch to a positive one without confronting and altering the fears that drive it. If a real fear of the future exists, a positive attitude will become more of an acting job and won’t be effective for long.
Knowing that specific fears may be hardwired into our system can be a liberating experience, to a certain extent. Understanding that there is no choice in our bodily reactions can help us to become more of an observer by allowing us to make choices without our body sensations controlling us.
Dr William Glasser created the choice theory, which states that we don’t have to be controlled by external events that stimulate our fears. His theory states that there are four components to human behaviour: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology.
These physiological body sensations accompany or stimulate an emotional fear response that usually controls our behaviours. Consequently, the behaviour will be individualised and based upon the levels of consciousness of the individual. According to Dr Glasser, we don’t have any control over our physiology or our feelings that arise from certain external events, but we do have some control over how we think.
He said that we have the most control over what we do. By recognising that these components are all a part of us, we don’t have to be slaves to our fears and the feelings that accompany them. We can then be in more control of our lives and can be free to choose our responses to outside events.
Information helps to create our perception and can influence how we react to events that stimulate our fears. Researching and reading about how to overcome your fears is a great place to begin. There are many great sites and articles on the internet that can help, and we can recognise that we don’t have to be run by our fears. With this information, maybe I will take up spelunking. After all, anything is possible when you can overcome your fears.
Scott Trettenero’s book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves.