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What Is Fear? The Survival Mechanism

Updated on April 11, 2015

“The Bird Is As You Choose It To Be.”

According to a study, an average person spends about 2 Hours Per Day in Fear, which is about 12.5% of our awake time and approximately 5 years from our average human lifetime!!!

Adversity is, about 45% of total human population in the world is affected Negatively by it.

What is FEAR???

As defined by some dictionaries:

:Fear is an unpleasant emotion, caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm."

As Defined by Biology and Psychology experts:

"Fear is a very valuable Biological Mechanism, which enables us to react in order to avoid or face harmful or dangerous situations. In simple terms, it is a survival mechanism, which made Cavemen survive in worst situations with little as no means available for protection, from predators and diseases."

Working Of Fear Mechanism

Our brain is a very intricate neurological network, which processes the information gathered through different senses. Portion of our brain; known as Hypothalamus; release hormones, which triggers physiological response to potential threats. This increases the efficiency of our senses, to decide Fight-or-Flight Response. Furthermore, Amygdala stores such information for future events.

During Caveman days, this mechanism was very crucial. In absence of Modern Science and Technology to detect potential threat, they had to depend entirely upon their senses to decide the noise which came from nearby bushes; was it due to winds that blew, or some predator was getting close. In absence of proper understanding, it was often confused as Help From God, in other words Superstition. (Unfortunately, such beliefs still widely prevail in our society.)

Returning to our original discussion, the system of early warning detector was a decisive difference between life and death. It improved over the period of thousands of years by learning from experiences and also through DNA in hereditary.

Little Albert Experiment


An Experiment

There was an experiment conducted, where a rat was placed near a kid named Albert. Initially, Albert wasn’t afraid of rat. Later on, when Albert tried to touch the rat, he was exposed to a loud sound that made Albert almost jump, which was done more than a couple of times. He, then, associated the sound with trying to touch the rat and started to be afraid of even going near the rat.

This reminded me of a scene from a movie ‘Life of Pi’, Pi was on a boat with a Tiger in an ocean, in middle of nowhere. Pi was afraid of the Tiger at first, but later he decided to make the Tiger afraid of him through a series of mental blows, which worked.

Though it was just a scene from a movie, the experiment of Albert and a Rat was real. Thereby it was concluded that Fear can be learnt -For the Rat - and passed on through DNA- Fear of Loud Sound.

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In Current Times

In current scenario, when we are living in groups within the boundary limits far from the wilderness of the forest, this mechanism of Fear detection and response still exist. Hence, when it’s dark and suddenly the door in front of you slam opens, your heart beat starts racing; until you realize, it was just a wind and not any predator.

A Helpful Research Documentary on Fear

Why is it still Operational?

Now, the question in all of your minds would be, how and why is it still operational and has so profound impact on our day-to-day lives?

Well, answer is simple. As we saw earlier, Fear is generated through the information and data which we gather from our surrounding. Additionally, it is not any information or data, rather particular pieces of information which can be proven as potential threat to us or someone like us. In layman terms, negative pieces of information are gathered by Amygdala, and in future if any such event, not exactly same but somewhat linked, occurs, the Hypothalamus gets into action and generates Fight-or-Flight response.

Where do we get such negative information from? Can we stop or block it?

We See, We Do.

Today, we are surrounded by people with fear of losing jobs, or becoming homeless, or speaking in public, or being late, and so on. How does that affect us? Well, a famous English proverb dictates; “We See, We Do.” Often unaware, we gather such information through our Eyes and Ears, which is then processed upon and stored.

Moreover, we are always connected with one or the other form of media, like Newspapers, Television, FM radio, Internet and so on. These sources are not there to share information, but they are in the business to make more money and lead. Their functioning was defined in very simple terms; “If It Bleeds, It Leads.” Media sources have understood the psychology of human brain, about what kind of information is remembered for long time, and they used it to make profits. Rest of us, follow them blindly to be “Updated” with current affairs of different sectors, thereby gathering more negative information than we can possibly anticipate, consciously.

Media Menace


Relating With A Pinch Of Imagination

Our Brain works in mysterious ways. In early days, way before Civilizations came into existence, the mechanism of fear and response, was the only thing to rely on. As we discussed earlier, it grew faster than any other body part as it was very crucial for survival. As we grew into Civilized world, we did not require to be afraid from Predators of the Forest, yet the mechanism was still in action. Hence it started picking up on clues from its surrounding, unaware that they were mere situations and perceptions developed by other beings from the same species. Most Situations, since the start of civilization till date, aren’t able to kill us; however, our brain creates a scenario using imagination power, where such situations can kill us, in thoughts.

Example: If I don’t have a job, I’ll not be able to earn my bread, thereby starving to death. In reality, No caveman ever had a job option and yet lived up to the point where it’s successors population has outnumbered the population of any other mammal currently on this planet.

Such Fear is known as Irrational Fear, where some event is not able to kill you and still make you afraid, just because you imagined, it can. In simpleton terms such types of fear are also referred to as Phobias


The Wise Old Man

To Conclude, I would share a small story which can be very effective in helping us overcome Irrational Fear or Phobia.

Once upon a time, there lived a Wise Old Man in the outskirts of a village. All villagers used to approach him in order to get advise and solutions to their problems. In the same village, there lived two boys, who once decided to trick the Wise Old Man. One boy took a bird and held it in his palms and approached the Wise Old Man. They asked the Wise Old Man to guess if the bird was dead or alive. If the Wise Old Man answered: it was alive, they would kill him and prove him wrong. If The Wise Old Man answered otherwise, they would let the bird fly free, which would prove the Wise Old Man wrong again. The Wise Old Man thought this through and replied: "The Bird Is As You Choose It To Be."

It is same with Irrational Fear or Phobia, the situation which does not have the potential to kill or harm you, it's your choice if you still want to let the Imaginative Fear affect your routine life.



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    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 4 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Indeed, aviannovice. [Smiles]

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      John F.Kennedy once said that the only thing to fear, is fear itself.

    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 4 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Precisely. It's up to you to decide, if you want to take control of the situation or otherwise.

      Thank you. [Smiles]

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Interesting article. Fear is mostly in the mind, as you say, it is your choice to make it real.

    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 4 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Indeed we should be. Thank you. [Smiles]

    • profile image

      PRAHARSHA MEHTA 4 years ago

      Very much informative article about fear. It is true that news & entertain media spread negativity in society. one has to be alert about it.