Fear is the basic companion of the instinct of self-preservation. Together with pain (perhaps only imagined), which also accompanies a dangerous situation, it helps us to understand the threat and avoid it. Humanity could not survive without a sense of fear. It is he who saves us from jumping from a high roof or crossing the highway in the wrong place. Fear made evolution possible. It is inherent in both humans and animals. Charles Darwin believed that fear is a primal instinct, untouched by civilization and preserved in its original form. Despite the fact that most of us do not have to face real threats to life in everyday format, such as fighting wild animals, fear has not atrophied, moreover, unlike, for example, the breeding instinct, it is still not subject to social morality.
Fear, like all other feelings, is formed in the brain, which, in turn, triggers a chain of reactions in the body. The central role in the process of the formation of fear and the response to it are: the thalamus, the brain area where the decision is made, what feeling to connect at the moment; sensory cortex, distinguishing pulses; the hippocampus involved in the formation of emotions and facilitates the transition of short-term memory into long-term memory; the amygdala, which is responsible for making decisions, emotional reactions and recognizing potential threats, as well as storing scary memories; and the hypothalamus, which decides for you how to react to a threat: run or fight. The formation of fear occurs entirely at the subconscious level.
In order for the mechanism to start, you need some incentive. In his capacity can act all that seems to a person potentially dangerous. For example, a snake. Every fear has two paths: long and short.
The long one uses all the sections of the brain described above, thus providing it with more information and, accordingly, opportunities for understanding the situation and forming an answer. Short road looks like this: thalamus - amygdala - hypothalamus. In this case, the brain quickly leads us to the final stage: the decision to run or fight back. When fear goes along a long road, during the process we have time to understand, can it be that there is no real threat?
Say, at the sight of the same snake, the danger is not always real: it can be an innocuous little or very realistic rubber toy. Further, the signals are sent to the hippocampus, which will answer the question whether we have encountered something similar before, and if so, what result did it have? In addition, on a long road, we take into account the accompanying signals, for example, does the snake hiss, does it look like it is going to attack? All this gives the brain the opportunity to form the most complete picture of the danger, assess the chances and thereby make an appropriate decision about the answer. A short chain leaves almost no luxury of choice: we either run away or are preparing to attack in response.
In fact, fear starts simultaneously on two roads, and at first the reaction is short and then long. We experience a sudden fright, and he makes us jump back from the snake two steps back, and after a second we are able to more soberly assess the threat.
The decision to respond to the danger is made: after that, the brain triggers the corresponding reactions in the body. Adrenaline rush occurs; blood pressure rises; rapid heartbeat; the pupils dilate to give us the opportunity to see the "enemy" as best we can; jumps up blood glucose levels, which makes us goosebumps and feel like “the hair on the head stood on end”; muscles tighten, but at the same time, smooth muscles relax to allow the lungs to absorb more oxygen; the mind fully focuses on the current task, everything else fades into the background; The immune system stops working so that all resources are thrown into the fight. In this way, our body initiates a survival mechanism, helping to protect ourselves.
By itself, fear is interpreted as an exclusively negative emotion, but the reaction of the organism, following the fright, can provoke a pleasant arousal. After the danger has passed, we experience an incredible relief - its intensity is directly proportional to the horror that we have experienced. In addition, fear can wake up the breeding instinct, in other words, adjust to sex.
Psychologist Arthur Aron conducted an experiment involving 66 men, dividing them into two groups. The first group was supposed to pass through a dangerous bridge hanging over a precipice, the second - along a very reliable and strong bridge over the same precipice. At the end of the journey, an assistant girl with a very attractive appearance was waiting for them and left a card with her phone number in case they wanted to find out more information about the experiment from her. Of the 33 men who passed through the “safe” bridge, the assistant was called back by two; in the second group there were 9 brave souls who called the girl.
Manifestation of fearlessness in situations that pose a threat to crowds, for example, during hostilities or disasters, is called heroism. There are among us those who deliberately go on dangerous experiments or have the reputation of a knight "without fear and reproach." The psychological background of such actions cannot be denied, but in some cases the absence of fear is a pathology. Experiments with the participation of rats have shown that if those of the amygdala of the brain are damaged, the animals stop being afraid of the cat and do not try to hide from it.
But what about those who have the amygdala of the brain, pah-pah, is normal, but you still want to overcome the fear? Fear is always associated with the formation of a specific response to a particular stimulus. Studies show that memories of negative experiences persist in the amygdala, but new memories that can suppress that negative are localized in the prefrontal cortex. Over time, the memory of a neutral experience (that is, when a stimulus that provoked fear was not followed by a real misfortune) crowds out a bad memory.
It is on this technique that most therapies are based, designed to save the patient from a phobia. If a person is afraid of heights, he takes small steps together with the doctor, trying to overcome fear: first he gets on a tiny stool, then on a bollard, then on a stepladder - eventually he gets to a really tall object. Thus, displacing negative memories and replacing them with a neutral experience, you can try to permanently get rid of the inveterate fear that prevents you from fully existing.