Fear is a normal, survival response. In the right amounts, fear can be your friend. On the other hand, excess fear is like a rabbit in a snare .... unable to run away, it is, in effect, paralyzed. (Prov 29:25) PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.
Fear Is Your Friend
- Fear prepares your body for "basic survival mode"....
- essential for keeping you safe
- warning or signal to be careful
- prepares you to react efficiently in a dangerous situation
- triggers the amygdala (limbic system of the brain)
- alerts the nervous system to release the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol
- slows or shuts down functions not essential for survival such as digestion
- sharpens functions that help you to survive
- increases heart rate
- increases blood flow to the muscles to help you run faster (flight-or-fight mode)
- breathing accelerates
- increases focus on the present danger and stores in your memory
- triggers the amygdala (limbic system of the brain)
- enables you to go beyond your comfort zone and conquer common, daily fears:
- feelings of failure and rejection
- public speaking
- addressing work/relationship situations
- the unknown
- success (some have a fear of this)
Fear as a Foe
There are two fears everyone naturaly has .... loud noises and falling backwards. All other fears are learned. This is why two-year-olds are often referred to as the "terrible two's". They have not yet "learned" life experiences and the "fears" that go with them. They do not have a fear of the unknown so they are excited and curious to learn and discover.
"Too much fear is like trying to fly in a plane with excess baggage – you might have to dump some or pay a hefty price to check it in."
Fear begins with an adverse learning experience which, then, creates an emotional memory image (EMI) and is stored in your subconscious mind. Negative impacts in all areas of life, however, can be experienced when these fears become a constant in a person's life .... to the point of becoming incapacitated or paralyzed. They impact your mental and physical wellbeing holding you back from moving forward. It is like being stuck in quicksand .... sinking deeper and deeper .... unable to move forward or get out without assistance.
- Physical health. Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated ageing and even premature death.
- Memory. Fear can impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
- Brain processing and reactivity. Fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately.
- When in this overactive state--sometimes called "the amygdala hyjack"--the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way.
- The brain stores all the details surrounding the danger—the sights, sounds, odors, time of day, weather, and so forth. These memories tend to be very durable, although they may also be fragmented.
- The sights, sounds, and other contextual details of a fearful event may bring back the memory, or they may cause us to feel afraid without consciously knowing why. Because these cues were associated with previous danger, the brain may see them as a predictor of threat.
- Mental health. Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, and PTSD.
- Reacting to cues that were associated with previous danger as a predictor of threat, often happens with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, a soldier who experienced a bombing on a foggy day might find himself panicking when the weather turns foggy—without knowing why.
What Can Help
Stress is "fear-based". Perceived or mis-perceived, fears or threats are real to those who experience them and can be triggered by anything that is similar to the stored information connected to the EMI. This is especially true if this threat or memory was not initially processed and filed away properly. Think of the mind like a computer. Whatever "data" we decide to "input" into our brains it will file it away some place. Eventually, the computer becomes "fragmented". There are bits and pieces taking up space inefficiently and reducing performance ability. Unless "defragmentation" is performed the computer will start to process more slowly and eventually fail to function at all.
The brain is similar to a computer. Those pieces of "fragmented" memories need to be "defragmented" so you can move forward instead of being stuck. The amygdala (where the memories are stored) responds to aromas .... natural aromas like spices, citrus, herbs and essential oils. These have been proven effective to calm and reduce stress. Specific oils and protocols that support emotional release can be found here. Prefer a Discovery Call or more information on Emotions & Science? Register here by selecting "Option 2".
5 other ways to confront fear:
- accept it: what you accomplish in life, what you are capable of, is going to depend on how you deal with fear.
- identify it: look for the points in your life where you’re afraid, and see them as opportunities to learn to deal with fear.
- feel it: the greatest mistake people make when dealing with fear is to try to think their way through it. They analyze what triggered it, or start “playing chess,” projecting out what might happen next, and how they’ll deal with it. This doesn’t diminish fear; it actually increases it because there’s no way to outsmart the universe. Instead of trying, do the counterintuitive thing with fear: let yourself feel it. Then you’ll be ready to move to the next step.
- face it: if you run away, it always gets much more terrifying. If you turn around and face it, something good almost always happens.
- practice it: think about confronting fear as a skill—something you can practice and get good at, like ping-pong, or knitting, or anything else. This will make your fear seem less dramatic, and you’ll feel more in control of it.