Can Fear be a Gift?

30 Oct

The majority of my blogs and articles about fear describe it in negative terms. How fear prevents us from truly living the life we wish for ourselves. How it keeps us from having, being and doing the things we most desire.

Today, I’d like to talk about the positive side of fear. And yes, there is a positive side. You see if our ancestors hadn’t experienced fear there is a good chance you and I would not be here today. No blog and no readers.

Like most animals, we of the human species have a built in early warning system to protect us from dangerous situations. It’s very much like the burglar alarm systems many of us have in our homes. It starts with the alarm itself found in the oldest part of our reptilian brain, a nodule known as the amygdala. The amygdala receives signals from our five senses very much like the burglar alarm that is connected to the windows and doors in our homes. When any of those doors or windows are breeched signals are sent to the alarm and it begins to ring.

The amygdala is always working monitoring what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel. If any one of these sensors suspects danger it immediately notifies the amygdala to prepare the body for what we refer to as, fight or flight. Perfect for when a wild beast looks at us and thinks dinner, or a hostile neighboring tribe is looking to conquer our village, make us slaves and steal our wives and daughters.

The first thing that happens when our amygdala suspects danger is to determine if the danger is real. This takes but nano seconds. If it does sense we are in danger it goes into action: The body is bathed in hormones, most notably adrenaline. The heart beats faster. The lungs take in more oxygen to mix with the sugars in the blood to produce more energy. Our senses sharpen. And, the blood supply is redirected away from the digestive track to the muscles. Our body is now ready to fight for our very lives, or run to escape our attackers.

When this happened to our ancestors they survived. We are living proof of that. So fear is definitely good, a gift.

But here is the weird part. Your amygdala doesn’t know the difference between a signal from your five senses, or a delusional thought you hold in your mind. So if you’re a salesperson who has to call a prospect and you’re afraid they’ll get mad at you and hang-up, your body will feel the fear and respond in a similar fashion to being chased by a pit bull. If there is someone you want to meet at a social gathering and you’re frozen in place by fear that you’ll be rejected and humiliated, your body is feeling the same stresses it would if you were confronted by a mugger on a dark street. This certainly doesn’t make much sense now, does it?

So, learn the difference between real fear that protects you from danger, and delusional fear that robs you of all the things that would add joy and happiness to your life. Once you do this, your life will never be the same.

Love,

Michael

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