October is the season of ghosts, ghouls, and Halloween. However there seems to be an even scarier entity out there that no one can escape from, and that is the emotion of fear.
Fear and anxiety seem to be at an all-time high. What’s going on with us? Why can’t people cope with life anymore? Have we gone soft? Is the world more stressful than it was during our parent’s generation? Is being fearful such a bad thing?
I’m not sure when fear became the most terrifying aspect of being human, but here we are in a society that has accepted that belief wholeheartedly. It has even gotten so widespread that we now see fear as a problem in our pets!
In order to understand why fear is so prevalent for us, we need to understand that humans are actually a prey species.
Throughout evolution, I have no doubt we were eaten by predators just as deer, rabbits and squirrels are. We have no natural means to hunt – no claws, no poison and our flat teeth are better suited for grinding up plant material. Our teeth would never hold onto a fighting antelope, not to mention we would never catch an antelope because we run slower than molasses on a cold day compared to almost all other animals. We are defenseless unless we have our tools. Some may argue that we are a predator because we eat meat, but strictly from an evolutionary viewpoint we better fit the model of a prey species.
Ok, so I may have convinced you we are a prey species that also eats meat, but what’s that have to do with anything?
What does a prey species do on a daily basis? They spend their entire life on the lookout for danger and death. How do they know when danger or death is neigh?
Yes, fear is a natural bodily reaction that has the sole purpose to keep us alive. Fear is a response to situations that are dangerous, or that we feel could be dangerous. We are always on the lookout for the next danger because we are genetically programmed to do so.
However, we are presented with a never ending barrage of topics which constantly remind us that nuclear bombs, terrorism, racism, violence, suicide, child abductions, murder, natural disasters, malfunctioning products, animal attacks, and disease lurk around every corner.
At one time, we were only aware of things happening in our neighbourhood, or at the most our country. Now, the entire world’s problems have become our own personal problems. We are constantly bombarded by stories and images of scary stuff, and it is setting off our fear response!
Is it a wonder that humans are so anxious these days?
What can we do?
First, we need to realize that fear is normal, and it only exists to keep us safe. When someone has phobias, high stress, or anxiety, their body doesn’t feel safe for whatever reason. Learning what is making you feel unsafe and either removing the “threat” or logically viewing the situation to determine if your safety is actually at risk can go a long way in coping with fear.
Second, we need to realize that we are constantly being told the world is more dangerous than it actually is. Sure all the above mentioned devastating scenarios are possible. I don’t say this to make people scared though. I just want people to realize that these horrible stories are over represented in the information we receive. Also, benign stories are worded in such a way to be scarier than they actually are.
This is a perfect example below:
IT CONTAINS MORE THAN 4,000 CHEMICALS AND IT HAS SPREAD INTO EVERY HUMAN BODY ON EARTH.
Among its components are formaldehyde, acetone, ethanol, ketone bodies, dihydrogen monoxide, tryptophan, urea, Dehydroeplandrosterone, Hexosephosphate P, and at least 20 kinds of acids.
Nearly every chemical constituent will, in certain concentrations, kill children and adults.
Chemical compounds within it are also used in yoga mats, explosives, warfare, and industrial applications.
It is now so pervasive that every human baby is born with high concentrations already in his or her tiny body.
Healthcare workers, pharmaceutical companies, and governments will spend billions each year to maintain or increase its presence in citizens.
It’s your own blood.
Don’t be alarmed by words you don’t understand or people who want to scare you on FaceBook because they’re bored, ignorant, or both. Read. Understand. Reduce the stupid.
Third, we need to learn how to use fear to give us courage. Fear emerges and the body responds the same regardless of what is causing the fear, but how we USE that response can be different. We can fight, freeze, or flee (flight). Courage is the result of using the fear response to fight or flee your situation. When someone freezes in a fearful moment, they are actually behaving how an animal does prior to being killed by a predator. Learn how to experience fear with the fight or flight response and minimize the use of the freeze response.
So remember, fear is normal. When you can identify your fear as it happens and rationalize what is causing the fear without freezing up, you are being courageous. However, if fear or stress is paralyzing or overwhelming you on a daily basis, you might need some assistance to get back on track. Aurae Wellness coaches understand the fear response and can help others understand too.