Friday, January 22, 2021

8 . Fear

Your guardian angel: FEAR 

1 – Visual example of how to earn money with fear

Fear is our most present and strongest emotion, since its prime purpose is to help us survive, it is there to protect us, it’s our first and formost survival enabler. Nowadays, there are whole service sectors for the reduction of fear, and, by generating fear in the first place, they all sell more or less complex "securities" and "certainties", advertised on TV.

It did what all ads are supposed to do: 
create an anxiety relievable by purchase.
D. F. Wallace 
Infinite Jest

2 – Two flashlights on fear

Just as courage imperils life, 
fear protects it. 
Leonardo da Vinci 

The intuitive signal of the highest order, 
the one with the greatest urgency, is fear; 
accordingly, it should always be listened to. 
Gavin de Becker 
The Gift of Fear 

3 - One question

• Your favourite fear?

Here we can see what produces the deepest fear in a lot of humans and at the same time is the greatest attraction for others: the Unknown. 

4- Fear in language games

Fear is the most important instinct (or emotion) for all animals, humans included, since it exists to protect them and it helps them to survive in dangerous situations. To humans, fear says, “go away, leave this situation, this place or this person, this is not good for you, this is dangerous, you may get harmed!” It makes you want to flee, to fight or to freeze in place. It affects your whole being, because your brain and the sympathetic nervous system prepare your body resources to deal with the exceptional situation. Fast breathing, strong heart pumbing, nervousness, tunnel view, and muscle tensions are just a few of the expressions of how your body reacts to a dangerous situation. 

Feeling fear tells you that you should be careful, run away or that you shouldn’t do something, that's why fear is also the emotional energy we are most afraid of. We don’t like that feeling, because there is something real or imagined dangerous nearby. 

In the (relatively) rare case that the situation and the corresponding emotions are too strong for you, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) - the Parasympathetic part of it - will make you faint faint, you freeze in place in order to survive. It can also happen that after an unbearable event with a similar fear reaction ("trauma") you don’t remember anything of what had happened to you. The traumatic event may "continue" with sleepless nights, including nightmares, in which you repeat the traumatic situation over and over again. 

Fear is a sensation and emotion that we share with all other living beings, it made possible that the whole human species survived for thousands or millions of years (depends on where you put the dawn of the species Homo). Fear is the first binary algorithmic emotion for all living beings and they act immediately on it (with the sole exception of the human mammal, who sometimes wants to be more clever than is approbriate for a given situation): 

Binary emotional equation for still living beings 

Digit 0 - NO FEAR = APPROACH. That is save; I like that; it’s good; stay or go near to; … 

Digit 1 - FEAR = AVOID. Not safe; I don’t like that; it’s bad; go away, withdraw; hide; … 

Fear is seldom wanted, because it implies limit and limitation, and it means not knowing what to do next. Humans struggle in their day to day life especially with three main feelings: anger, sadness, and fear. Fear is the strongest and the most common of all, although few humans like to admit that they are afraid or in fear of something. 

Young animals and humans are by instinct fearful of strange people and places, but sometimes the people who should take care of us and protect us, are the most dangerous for our personal integrity. When that happens, you learn by painful experience not to trust anybody, you’ve no place to hide, and you will see  and sense the world as a really dangerous place to live in. And these feelings may never completely fade away: 
  • For many people the war begins at home: Each year about three million children in the United States are reported as victims of child abuse and neglect. One million of these cases are serious and credible enough to force local child protective services or the courts to take action. In other words, for every soldier who serves in a war zone abroad, there are ten children who are endangered in their own homes. and they told me stories about having been hit, assaulted, or molested, often by their own parents, sometimes by relatives, classmates, or neighbors. 
Bessel van der Kolk 
The Body Keeps the Score 

5 - When do we need it? 

As history and the daily news show all too clear and too drastically – for anybody who wants to face it – we need fear as a radar system during the whole process of our life. That doesn’t mean that we should feel fear in each and every situation, but we should learn to scan our environments and the people we meet, at least a bit, just in case. And in some places a lot more. As any wildlife animal can tell you if it could speak: Better double check on what's going on and who's around, than being converted into the breakfast of a larger being! 

As with most "things", you can have too little or too much of a certain quality. You may feel fear for something you can put your finger on, and then again you can feel anxious about any- and everything. Fear and anxiety, both may happen together, but fear is defined as an reaction to a concrete, known threat, whereas anxiety is a reaction to some unknown, diffuse and only imagined threat in your head. 

Anxiety is an overstretched fear, as it is the minds interpretation of a possible danger, and since there are a lot of posiibilites to get hurt in life on earth, anxiety can attach itself to all kinds of things, people, and situations, and nowadays it’s just that what happens: Many people worry about all kinds of events that could possibly happen, but most probably never will. 

Rule of thumb # 6

Nearly everything is possible!
But not everything is very probable to happen!

Some types of anxiety disorders that are characterized by fear include: 

Agoraphobia - Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - Panic disorder - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - Separation anxiety disorder - Social anxiety disorder - Specific phobias (from spiders, Aerophobia – fear of flying -  fear of heights - fear of the dark - fear of .... - etc.). 

People who have one or more of these disorders normally try to avoid the situation and places that put them in an anxious state. In the long run that means they don’t learn how to handle these events and the symptoms might get worse. 

Even as fear and anxiety are different in that one is an response to a real threat and the other to an imagined one, the two can produce a similar or the same stress response in your body-mind system

Much in our society is built around avoiding fear. We live in “fear avoiding societes”. You can buy insurance for all kinds of possible and impossible situations, there are legal contracts and insurances for renting a room, a car, a person (employment contract or official papers for getting married) all kinds of safety regulations, health insurances and hospitals, and not to forget the social security systems. All modern societies are trying to reduce the incertainties and risks of life, and this should make people feel safe and secure, and fear only should come to the foreground in rare, uncommon situations, not foreseen in all the insurances we signed and paid. 

But there is some kind of paradox in the fact that more and more people have anxiety disorders, especially in some of the richest and most secure societies with the best medical care on the planet. Looks like the more securities are offered in the market place, the more people get anxious. In the end quite a lot people succumb under the tensions of modern life, which produces a so called General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), where humans worry about any- and everything, especially about the fact that they don't know why and what they are living for. 

In this clip you see some anxiety disorders and the remedies that people use and which are supposed to cover up the pain of living in a society of disconnected and lost souls. 

According to one source, anxiety was in 2020 the most commonly diagnosed disorder in the United States and it seems that the safer a society gets as a whole (according to crime and death statistics), the inhabitants of these societies become more scared and have more anxiety and panic attacks. How come? 

6 – Evolutionary aspects

The fear response is instinctive, it’s a “default program” by evolution for dangerous situations and it exists to protect you from being the lunch for an animal bigger than you (although the smallest and invisible animals are the most dangerous). 

Since being eaten alive doesn't seem to be that much fun (that's just a guess, I didn't try it out until now!), fear is there to protect you from this not real necessary pain: Under threat, our bodies grab the controls, and put us on automatic pilot. When threatened, the brain and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), especially its Sympathetic branch (SNS), prepare the body for flight or fight, that means, adrenaline level get higher, cortisol rushes in, sweating starts, blood is flowing away from the skin (paleness), pupils dilate, hearing becomes better and muscles get tensed – everything ready for facing the situation the best way possible. Other fear symptoms may also include: Chest pain – chills - dry mouth – nausea - rapid heartbeat - shortness of breath – trembling - upset stomach. 

The Autonomic Nervous System can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined threat, since thinking about it too long is not its function, action is. There is a threat and it responds by getting our body ready to fight it or run away from it, no second thought, just acting, because it could be a matter of life and death!

 A common fear in daily life which can develop into a general anxiety symptoms: S/he’s late! Will s/he return? What happened? 

7 – Fear is useful for 
  • To protect us from real (or imagined) danger. 
  • To know our (present) real or imagined limits. 
  • To realise that some things, people and/or situations are not really good for our mind-body unit.
  • To be creative, to find a way out of the scary situation. 
  • To define what we don’t like. 
  • Really being able to live, to realise the fragility of our being in the world. 
  • To be able to go through fear and act with courage (or dying in the intent and you are the hero/ine or fool of the day). 
  • To experience adventure. 
  • To enter into the unknown and to open up to the mysterious. 
  • Crossing boundaries and growing beyond ourselves. 
  • To develop ourselves against all odds. 
  • To feel the rush of adrenaline and get addicted to it (or not). 
  • To experience the simplest default order for all living beings: Fear = Avoid!!, I don’t like = go away; don’t stay close. 
• Others: … 

8 - Forms of fear 

From a light intuition that something is not quite right, to paralyzed freeze, from concrete and clearly identified danger, to a limitless, undefinable threat, there is an nearly infinite spectrum for floating on the treacherous waters of fear and anxiety. The good news is that you won’t be alone, since approximately 20% of U.S. adults experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder during any given year, that means you are in the company of over 60 million people only for the US. 

9 - Shadow sides of fear 

Panic disorder: When your body reacts to something so strong that you think you are having a heart attack and you are going to die now. 

Post traumatic stress disorder: After an extreme situation (assault, rape, accident, ....), which your body-mind cand "diggest", you may relive the traumatic event again and again, whenever some kind of noise, smell or movements trigger your memory it, and you fall into a rabbit hole of a seemingly eternal loop of the inicial hurtful situation (trauma).

Phobias: A phobia is an enlargement and diversion of the normal fear response. A specific object or situation gets all your anxious attention, although they do not present a real danger. You know that your featr reaction isn’t very reasonable, but your body reacts as if there was a real danger present. If not treated of faced, the phobia tends to worsen and can limit your daily life in multiple forms. 

Others: … 

10 – How to decrease or increase your fear radar (depends where and how you live!) 

Beyond fear

Our fear invites us to go beyond the boundaries of the known, to enter new territory and to embark on a journey whose course we do not know yet. The awakened fear provides us with the energy to get involved with the new and unknown situation, and so we have the opportunity to overcome our limitations. As one book title says: Feel the fear and do it anyway! 

The other part of the coin is that when we refuse to feel fear, we just block out our natural limitations and pretend they don't exist. Yes, there are limitations of what we can and can’t do. You can jump from a high building, without any special gear, pretending that you can fly like a bird – but the natural laws of physics in general won’t buy into that! The good news is that you will always come back to the ground 

How to manage your fear 

Depends how fearful you are in daily life. You shouldn’t be fearful all the time, but you should avoid overconfidence as well. Everything depends on context, that means, where you live, with whom or alone, what’s going on around you, day or night, if you are a woman or a man, big or small, etc. 

Normal and dangerous situations have a context and a timing, that means, time, place and people, and some places at a different time are more dangerous than at another time, like walking around downtown in a big city at day or at night. Walking around there at daytime isn’t a big deal, but at nighttime it’s more a kind of adventure trip.

For anxiety disorders you should consult a psychologist or psychotherapist to help you. There are different methods of treating anxiety, like: Systematic Desensitization - Flooding – Exposure treatments - mindful living – techniques of managing stress – exercising every day (yoga, pilates, …). 

For Social Anxiety Disorder (fear of talking to strangers, going to a party, giving a presentation, etc) there is the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS), developed by Dr. M. R. Liebowitz. It is a 24-item, self-rating scale with which you can evaluate how social anxiety plays a role in your life across a variety of contexts and situations. Click on the link below and get your SAD score: 

11 – Three examples of fear in literature and/or real life

 “Come to the edge,” she said. 
“We can’t, we’re afraid!”, they responded. 
“Come to the edge,” she said. 
“We can’t, we will fall!”, they responded. 
“Come to the edge,” she said. 
And so they came. 
And she pushed them. 
And they flew. 
G. Apollinaire 

 (Attention: Please be aware that Newton’s physical law of “Universal Gravitation”  – F = G mM/r2 -   doesn’t work and apply in the same way in Poetry as it does always and without exception in real life on Planet Earth!) 

  • Kelly is about to learn that listening to one small survival signal saved her life, just as failing to follow so many others had put her at risk in the first place. She looks at me through moist but clear eyes and says she wants to understand every strategy he used. She wants me to tell her what her intuition saw that saved her life. But she will tell me. 
  •  …. “I gotta be somewhere. Hey, don’t look so scared. I promise I’m not going to hurt you.Kelly absolutely knew he was lying. She knew he planned to kill her, and though it may be hard to imagine, it was the first time since the incident began that she felt profound fear.… 
  •  Since he was dressed and supposedly leaving, he had no other reason to close her window. It was that subtle signal that warned her, but it was fear that gave her the courage to get up without hesitation and follow close behind the man who intended to kill her. 
  •  She later described a fear so complete that it replaced every feeling in her body. Like an animal hiding inside her, it opened to its full size and stood up using the muscles in her legs. “I had nothing to do with it,” she explained. “I was a passenger moving down that hallway.” What she experienced was real fear, not like when we are startled, not like the fear we feel at a movie, or the fear of public speaking. 
  • This fear is the powerful ally that says, “Do what I tell you to do.” Sometimes, it tells a person to play dead, or to stop breathing, or to run or scream or fight, but to Kelly it said, “Just be quiet and don’t doubt me and I’ll get you out of here.”… 
Gawin de Becker 
The Gift of Fear 

  • Anxiety is not a sign of sickness, a weakness of the mind or an error for which we should always seek a medical solution. It is mostly a hugely reasonable and sensitive response to the genuine strangeness, terror, uncertainty and riskiness of existence.
Alain de Botton
An Emotional Education

12 - Coda
  • What fear is saying: "I don’t want to be here." “I’m scared.” “Danger!”, etc. 
  • Mission: Creativity; find a safe way out of a situation. 
  • Shadows: Paralysis, General Anxiety. 
  • Function: Protects you and at the same time restricts you. 
  • Duration: Depends on context and person.
  • Goal: Keeping you alive, survival. 
  • Energie level: high but contained and tensed. 

Real life can be frightening a lot of times, in some places and at a special moment more than in others, as already mentioned several times, depending where, how, with whom and when you live. 

For some people feeling fear and doing it anyway may become an addiction, it releases adrenalin and cortisol and a lot of practitioners of extreme sports, like wing gliding and similar death defying hobbies, are addicted to the rush of adrenaline in their bodies. 

So it seems that in any given situation some people get paralyzed by fear while others get an adrenaline high and do it over and over again, increasing the odds of sucumbing to the Icarus success formula: “Let’s see how high we can fly until our wings melt!”

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