FEAR, the most studied emotion.
Why we feel the fear emotion and what adaptive functions it has.
I believe general population, the average person has a very wrong understanding of what emotions are, and what fear is in particular. Unless you are into psychology, neuroscience, medical school or other social studies the changes are you have a negative association with this emotion in particular. Here I will be explaining what fear is and all its good and adaptive functions.
If you prefer it in video click here.
What FEAR is
Fear is the emotional response of a real threat, unlike anxiety that is a response to the anticipation of a danger. It is also a reactive response, which means it appears only as a reaction of an event. Something has to happen that triggers this emotional response. We exclude here the pathologies associated with fear like phobias or manias.
An emotional activation is a superior program. Directs the activities and interactions of the subprograms like perception, memory and learning. Thank to fear we are alive today as a human species.
The autonomous nervous system has phasic responses in cardiac frequency, heart contraction, skin conductance, arterial pressure. We can see and measure fear thank to different questionnaires, to proofs of classical conditioning and now to neuroscience. The somatic nervous system has responses in muscle tension, respiratory frequency, paralysis effect followed by a muscle tone that help initiate an escape.
FEAR emotion in the twenty first century
In our civilized society, where we don’t live in the wood and don’t have immediate and obvious danger around us is very difficult to understand this emotion, or to act upon it. Fear is present when we were just about to have a car accident, when our child is in hospital with an injury, also if you are afraid to being caught doing something that society or the law doesn’t approve.
We are more surrounded by fear now than ever. Yet we have a very hard time using this emotion like our ancestors used it in tribes. Fear was used to change the structure of organization, to change diet and habits and many other adaptive decisions they had to take to survive.
What do we do know when we are afraid? Not much really. Now we have become afraid of the fear. We have no idea how to use it. To grow, evolve and create something different from it. Is a reactive emotional response. But do we react to it? Or are we even afraid to be afraid?
What do you do when you sense a threat?
Do you paralyze? Do you run? You stay put and wait to be attacked?
Let me know in the comments.