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The Purpose Of Fear

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posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:03 PM
What is the purpose of Fear? While I can see a metaphysical reason (lets say, to give one a sense of the value of love), from an evolutionary, scientific perspective, the purpose of FEAR (capitalized to emphasize its mechanism in the brain-body) is to get the organism AWAY from the threat to its life.

What happens when the human being perceives fear? First, phenomenologically, the person feels an intense eruption of feeling in the body. The feeling one feels - which feels like a liquid iron - is the flow of adrenaline and cortisol. The purpose of these hormones is simple: break down fats for the purpose of muscle activation. In short, for all organisms, the perception of fear is tied to motor activity i.e to run away or fight.

But in todays day and age, in such a cerebral, diplomatic, and stationary environment, when someone feels FEAR, do they burn it off - as their body expects to happen - in the form of muscle movements? No, we don't. And this is what scientists would refer to as a 'mismatch' between present day environments and environments of evolutionary adaptedness: that is, the environments are body's have evolved within.

This is a serious issue as any activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axix SHOULD be tied into motor movements. So, should we really be surprised that physical activity promotes serotonin excretion? This is exactly as it should be - in terms of our body's expectations of an environmental situation - whenever stress happens (HPA axis, cortisol, adrenaline) there SHOULD BE motor movement, i.e. running or fighting.

But in our world, this isn't what happens when we become stressed. When our HPA axis is activated, we do not engage in rapid motor movement, but engage in more of the same stuff that likely triggered the response: thinking.

This is absolutely hilarious if you really think about it. In becoming human - in really taking advantage of the cognitive implications of human symbolic abilities - human beings unwittingly, but truly, have screwed up the nature of the stress response system.

How many people suffer today with thinking and depression, without doing what their bodies expect to bring themselves back to a neurochemical equilibrium? Also, most fears aren't actually existential i.e. a direct threat to life. No. Most of our fears are imaginary and in our head; often, are fears of our own thoughts and feelings. And this creates an ungodly feedback loop between FEAR and the anxiety it produces in the nervous system; both peripheral, in the intense anxious feelings in the limbs and viscera; as well as central, with the worries and fears in the consciously thinking mind.

This is the loop which leads to psychosis and suicide. The body and mind becomes so dysregulated - never discharging the anxiety in the motor movements which would restore normal serotonin levels - and so the body, overtime, is over-burderned so that even a normal release of the adrenaline in the limbs would not do much in fixing a serotonin system that is weakened and disordered. The thinking mind will still feel the depression in its limbs; and so become susceptible to the perception of fear (reactivating the FEAR system).

This is why evolutionary theory is important from a mental health perspective. When we don't remember and pay attention to how the body evolved, we don't live and act in ways in tune with our body's. When we feel stress, we need to run it off. If something makes us scared, do yourself a favor and regulate your neurochemistry by doing a few jumping jacks.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:47 PM
Isn't the purpose of fear to show you your weakness?

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 11:18 PM
Isn't the purpose of fear meant to instill an image which projects negative outcome? If so, fear is something that has to be overcome with courage.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 11:34 PM
a reply to: Astrocyte
Cool, funny and interesting what more could one ask for?


a reply to: KonquestAbySS

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to overcome it over and over again.
I read that similiar somewhere and i think it is true. We will probably never be free from fear, because it still serves some purposes, when you walk through dark streets and hear steps a risen adrenaline level helps you to sharpen your senses.
We will live in a world with danger for a forseeable time and i guess it won't die out easy. But hey if you can't change it, you have to work with it. We all get super fit, when we start to go for a run whenever we feel afraid.

posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 12:03 AM
Thanks for sharing. I'll keep this in mind the next time I'm stressed.

I've always been really interested in evolution and the future evolution of humans now that we don't exactly live "in the wild" anymore.

posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:41 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

Physiologically, humans are not really that much more evolved than we were when we needed to be fearful of predatory animals such as big cats and the like. We have virtually the same brain humans have had for the past 200,000 years.

Some say that our brains may have evolved a bit since we became less nomadic and started living in more permanent settlements (which started about 50,000 years ago with the onset of agriculture). However, even 50,000 years ago, we needed to fear being eaten by a predator. Heck, we even needed to fear other unknown groups of humans, because it was possible that they would want to do us harm in order to gain our land, our mates, or our things.

I say "our" and "we", because (as I mentioned) humans are not that far removed from humans 50,000 years ago. Evolution is a slow process, and 50,000 years is just the blink of an eye. We have practically the same brain as we did back then, and that brain included the fight or flight instinct, which is driven by fear. Our brains were wired that way then, so it's no surprise that they are still wired that way, because our brains are not that much more evolved.

As a civilization, we are more advanced than we were 50,000 years ago, but as an animal/species we are virtually no more physiologically evolved as we were then.

edit on 4/15/2015 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:48 AM
I think fear also helps us with memory, for better or worse.

posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 02:38 PM
I have been exploring the relationship between our sense of smell and our emotions recently, in the context how we judge others antisocial if they don't meet our standards of cleanliness.

I came across some interesting studies that indicate that we can smell fear on other people, via sweat, but not consciously. Our brains respond to the smell of fear by mirroring it. We smell fear, we experience fear. Thinking magnets, could it be a repulsion system?

It didn't particularly apply to the context I was looking at, in my case the individuals are visibly dirty, so it is a visual reaction, but it made me think, even the smelliest of people, you have to get pretty close up to smell them, perhaps just being able to smell someone triggers a back off mechanism that some of us are more conscious of than others.

posted on Apr, 21 2015 @ 01:34 AM
Fear plays many roles i would think. Like the evolutionary role you pointed out, being necessary for survival.

I would go as far to say that it is necessary for existence. If fear didn't exist, then how could life be interesting. The fear of death forces us to appreciate and love people. If you could live forever, there would be no sense of urgency to accomplish and create things.

Just like with needs without, black needs white, love needs fear to even exist.

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