What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid

 

Fear is a powerful instinct which seeks to guard us from failure. And conversely, the embrace of failure can help to conquer that same fear.

Sharon Begley’s article “The Roots of Fear” in Newsweek offers an examination of fear’s evolutionary roots illustrating how it can overpower other faculties even ‘absurdly’ so…

  • “Fear is not only more powerful than reason, however. It is also (sometimes absurdly) easy to evoke for reasons that also lie deep in our evolutionary past. Reacting to a nonexistent threat, such as fleeing from a venomous snake that turned out to be a harmless one, isn’t as dangerous as failing to react to actual threats…The results of targeting the amygdale in a way that overrides the thoughtful cortex can be ludicrous or tragic, but frequently irrational. In a classic experiment, scientists compared people’s responses to offers of flight insurance that would cover ‘death by any cause’ or ‘death by terrorism’. The latter, of course, is but a small subset of the former. Yet the specificity of the word ‘terrorism’ confined with the stark images the word evokes triggers the amygdale’s fear response in a that ‘by any cause’ does not. Result: people are willing to spend more for terrorism insurance that death-by-any-cause insurance…What’s clear, though, is that continued exposure to a threat that never materializes diminishes its hold on the amygdala. ‘Slowly, when what we have feared does not come to pass, our logic turns back on,’ says NYU’s LeDoux. ‘The prefrontal cortex tells the amygdala to stand down.’”
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