That thing called fear

That thing called fear

 

I watched a Youtube video recently about rare genetic diseases that leave people with superpowers. Some of which were spectacular, like Savant Syndrome, which gave the person the ability to retain and recall a vast amount of information. I even saw a guy that was incapable of feeling cold, which, I’m not sure how good that is when considering pneumonia.

But one “superpower” in particular captured my attention. It was a woman who could not feel fear. At first, I thought it was cool, but I realized the inability to feel fear might not be such a good thing on reflection.

I feel fear in its unique way, allows us to evaluate what’s really at stake. It invokes acts of great courage, and I will admit incredible stupidity. But imagine our lives without it. Picture this, you’re walking through a field, and you come across a cat. Unless you’re allergic or superstitious, you’re most likely to walk right by and continue your stroll undisturbed. Heck, the cat is probably more afraid of you than you are of it.

Further down the road, you come across a snake. Unless you are some daredevil, your first reaction would be to freeze or even run in the opposite direction. Your heart rate would pick up, your sweat glands would activate, and a hundred other things would happen to your body as it goes into its “fight or flight” mode. Why does your body react differently when you see a cat and when you see a snake? It’s simple. Your brain recognizes that a snake poses more danger to life than a cat through time and experience. That fear triggers the required reaction your body needs to take to help you survive at that moment.

 Today we live in a civilized society where an impending exam or a job interview can trigger similar reactions like sweaty palms, increased salivation, and lack of sleep. If you’re anything like me, that fear is often misplaced. But fear was not originally designed to prevent you from going about your everyday tasks. It ought to slow things down, make you more aware, and call your attention to where you desperately need it. But these days, it’s hardly life or death. It works to help you evaluate just how much of your time and money is at stake for most people. It’s easy to consider fear a nuisance when we’re often not in immediate life or death situations. I feel that’s because most of us react to it the wrong way.

When your phone battery is low, you don’t panic. You plug it in. When your car is running low on gas, you get into the nearest fueling station and get some more. You evaluate what those warning signs mean and react in a way that preserves their functionality. Fear is your body’s way of warning you, and it shouldn’t be considered a nuisance.

After all, the fear of the dark created fire, and the fear of diseases and death, made vaccination. After thousands of years, the fear of being forgotten and not fulfilling one’s dreams inspired our species to create monuments. Millions of people worldwide are motivated to make great artworks, from the great pyramids in Egypt to Grammy award-winning stars, to the countless men and women who work every day for a better life.

 

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