This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.
2006 Third Web Paper
FEAR THE FEELING
What is this thing that takes up so much of our time? What is this thing that causes or prevents so much to, or from happening in an individual? What is it that drains and overwhelms the individual to a point, where and when they can no longer function or even think deeper than their present moment and in that moment there is nothing but confusion? What is it that affects an individual's thinking to the point that it drains him or her of their full strength and their intelligence? Of course there are answers to these questions, but do they really satisfy, or do the answers really answer the fear.
Of course a fair amount of fear is healthy and necessary in the human being. It has provided humans with a protective response in time of danger. This has come to be known as the "fight or flight response" (Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon). The "fight or flight response" is our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight or flee" from perceived attack, harm, or threat to our survival. (1) This view is further elaborated on:
When we experience excessive stress – whether from internal worry or external circum-
stances – a bodily reaction is triggered, called the "fight or flight response". This response
is hardwired into our brains and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from
bodily harm. (2)
When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our
environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight
system bypasses our rational mind – where our more well thought out beliefs exist – and
moves us into "attack" mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in
our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and every-
thing as a possible enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the look
out for every possible danger. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is
exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible
danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens
through which we see the world. (3)
I must ask, what part does stress play in fear. Is it apart of fear or is it something altogether different? Is stress fear, or something before? Is fear a combination of feelings? If it is a primitive, automatic, inborn response has it changed its response to fear? Has it evolved to the needs of the body and the mind? Or has it remained the same, to protect us in urgent and immediate survival? Is fear just a protective signal for the body and mind to take action, to flee or to think? If fear is distorted and exaggerated what causes this to happen? Why does it go beyond that protective state?
Fear the feeling can be dealt with in a different manner, that can be seen along with other feelings in a more general way :
Feelings, on the other hand, are always hidden, like all mental images necessarily are,
unseen to anyone other than their rightful owner, the most private property of the organism
in whose brain they occur. Emotions play out in the theater of the body. Feelings play out
in the theater of the mind. (4)
A feeling is the perception of a certain state of the body along with the perception of a
certain mode of thinking and of thoughts with certain themes. Feelings emerge when the
sheer accumulation of mapped details reaches a certain stage. (5)
With this view in mind, it would seem that all feelings react in the same manner. But fear seems to much stronger when viewed against other feelings. It seems that fear of some sort exists in all feelings.
On a personal note, I feel the feeling of fear and I can't put it into words it just has to be felt. Words are very shallow when you try to convey a feeling. Feelings can't be explained. The words just don't come out just the feeling. The feeling seems to cancel out the words. Some of the questions have been answered, but that only gave room for more questions.
Damasio, Antonio. Looking for Spinoza Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain
Neimark, Neil F. The Fight or Flight Response at www.TheBodySoulConnection.com
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