What is fear?
Fear is an EMOTION.
Now if you have been hanging out with me for a while you know that I believe that emotions are caused by thoughts. Your feeling of fear is a response to a thought that you believe to be true.
Whether it is a judgment of stimuli in your environment, thoughts of impending doom, a belief system that has been ingrained in your thinking patterns. This emotion is triggered by a thought.
Now there are variations of feeling fearful. I love this emotional vocabulary chart developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox.
So many different variations of this feeling right? There are so many ways to feel fear and to feel scared.
FEAR is normal. Our brains were built that way! But they evolved during a time when we had more legitimate shit to be scared of. Like being prey, starvation, hunting etc. But the same mechanisms we used to survive in the early days of man still function in our now relatively cushy day to day existence and it can wreak havoc on our lives.
So how does the brain respond to fear?
Amygdala: scans for threats and signals body to respond
Brain Stem: triggers the freeze response
Hippocampus: turns on the fight-or-flight response
Hypothalamus: signals the adrenal glands to pump hormones
Pre-Frontal Cortex: interprets the event and compares it to past experiences
Thalamus: receives input from the senses and “decides” to send information to either the sensory cortex (conscious fear) or the amygdala (defense mechanism)
NOW NOTE THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX!
This is the part of our brains that makes us evolved human beings. This is where we get to go into our “higher” mind and decide our response. Rather than flipping out in our “lizard brain” or traditional fight or flight (or freeze). What this really breaks down to is a separation of the subconscious and conscious mind.
This is important to know because I’m sure, like me you have overreacted at least once or twice in your life. Our lizard brain takes our thoughts and triggers flight or fight. It is our job to rewire our brains to respond appropriately to what’s happening around us. That is why it is so important to WATCH what is happening in our brain.
Sometimes you need to get real about your thinking and how it is keeping you stuck. Often, for people who are feeling stuck, there is an underlying sense of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake, fear of failing. It’s not that the feeling of fear needs to be ignored or discarded. It’s there for a reason. But your brain is wired to basically tell you that if you do this, there is a chance you could die. That is how we are originally designed. To avoid death and procreate, etc etc. So when our brain is freezing on us, or when we find ourselves in fight or flight because we want to do something new, that is just our brain trying to keep us safe. It’s out of our norm! It’s not the everyday experience we are used to.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it is normal to feel fear and a sense of dread when we are doing something new. That we will survive, and it’s ok to fail, and it’s ok to learn. In fact, it’s the only way to grow.
Have a great week,