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The character of fear

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posted on Apr, 26 2006 @ 11:43 PM
How would you describe the character of fear, the way it works? And what can we do with our knowledge of fear. Is fear truly useful or does it only slow down our experiences and development? Anything else you think you might have learned about fear?

I write these same questions at the bottom of my post.

I have been paying more attention to my sense of fear lately. Whenever I am afraid of some uknown (usually late at night) I sort of explore the feeling to try to learn from it.

Some things I have noticed about fear:

- It has little reason behind it
- It sometimes depends on how my day went, my general mood
- It is very hard to get rid of
- It is very hard to force a sense of fear upon myself when I am not already feeling it

There are some nights where I am just frightened in a sense, there are some nights where nothing invokes this sense of fear.

When I experiment with forcing fear upon myself, I might try to scare myself by remembering all the horror stories I have heard/read about, trying to imagine what possible spooky stuff is out there. This rarely changes my mood.

It seems to me that fear is really beyond my immediate control, but factors throughout the way I carry out my day affect my sense of fear at night.

How would you describe the character of fear, the way it works? And what can we do with our knowledge of fear. Is fear truly useful or does it only slow down our experiences and development?

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 02:32 AM

Fear Conditioning: How the Brain Learns about Danger
by Joanna Schaffhausen

In the 1970s, researchers Paul Ekman, Wallace Friesen and Carroll Izard became interested in whether emotions differ across cultures, so they showed photographs of emotional expressions to people around the world to determine if a smile means the same thing in San Francisco as it does in Samoa. They found that everyone recognized an upturned mouth as the universal sign of happiness, and there was similar agreement about expressions of surprise, anger, disgust, sadness and fear. This impressive degree of accord among diverse cultures suggests that the basic emotions are automatic and preprogrammed, but the task of determining the underlying neural circuitry of emotions has been difficult. Fear has been a particularly attractive candidate for study because it has easily-measured physical correlates such as increased heart rate and release of stress hormones. From minor apprehension to stark terror, fear helps us make associations that keep us from harm. Fear learning is quick, powerful and long lasting. If you think back to your childhood, chances are good that within your earliest memory is an event colored by fear.

the entire article can be found here:

As a female living with Panic Anxiety Disorder (on the mend thanks to coganative therapy and retraining responses) I can tell you fear is useful in context. It protects us, teaches us and conditions us to find ways around it. It also provides euphoria for some danger seekers

It can, as in my case, become one hell of a ball and chain. For three years I was trapped in my house (agoraphobia) because the fears, although based for the most part in rational thought, became irrational.

The retraining is invaluable! Cognition and the therapies that are based on it can teach us more than we originally thought or presumed about many mental illnesses. Naturally there are some mental illnesses that can't be treated with Cognative Therapies and reconditioning. Fear based or Phobias, CAN be treated with cognition retraining.

This goes to show that a great amount of our fear based responses are learned, and therefor it can be concluded that a great portion of them can be relearned, conditioned or irradicated all together with training.

There is also the matter of the almond sized part of the brain that in part controls fear (and pleasure).

There's more info about it here:


If anyone is really interested LMAO, I have collected a crap load of articles on fear and cognative training.

On a normal day now...I have small and very manageable bouts of anxiety...I can walk myself through it cognatively
and it's done in a minute or two.

I still have issues with germs...but it occupies a lot less time than it used to.

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 08:05 AM
justgeneric, congrats on the recovery. It sounds like a huge turn-around compared to what some manage.

I have never had to live with a phobia, but I'd imagine that it would be horrible, looking around you every second for the thing that scares you. And there are some odd phobias out there.

But the smartest one is the phobia of phobias, I think. A fear of fear. It means you are not scared of the what's out there, but rather how the thing out there can effect your ability to take action. Like an apprehensiveness of heights, it is both rational and useful.

Fear is just a basic bodily function, a reaction to something that can potentially hurt or scare us. Darkness, aircraft, and heights are obvious, with some of the more fringe ones including numbers, fluffy things, and sunlight, although I would expect these odder things to be triggered by some previous event, like that baby that tested in the early 20th century, and when he was 40 he still fainted at the sight of anything resembling a chicken, or anything at all fluffy. I seriously could not stand to live like that.

But fear, in moderate amounts, is a very, very good thing. Imagine not being able to feel pain? You could melt your skin off and not know it. Imagine being without fear? You'd go 12 rounds with Muhammad Ali without a second thought - **sudder**.

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 08:50 AM
Would a fearless person take on Muhammad Ali without a second thought? A reckless or foolish person might. One look at the man should be enough to dissuade anyone with a grain of sense.

Fear is an ancient biological mechanism that helps unthinking creatures cope with danger. It works well for them, but not so well with human beings, because one of the things fear does is inhibit or switch off higher mental functioning. This makes sense for an animal; we may guess that it ensures closer adherence to the programmed responses that follow -- fight or flight, etc. With human beings, on the other hand, nothing could be more dangerous. Our intelligence offers us a far wider and more effective scope of response to danger than any amount of instinctive programming, but when our ability to think clearly is compromised by fear, the advantage is lost.

I don't know if it is possible entirely to overcome fear, but I do believe it is a goal well worth striving after. When you put away fear, life opens up like a flower. A veil in the mind is drawn aside and whole new world of experience and possibilities suddenly appears. It is a genuine epiphany.

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 10:05 AM
even the most intelligent, rational person without fear would indeed become a fool.

I think, a great deal of fear is in fact based in rational , intelligent thought. True we are animals...being sentient doesn't change that any more than technological advances. We can still be considered part of the food chain - any reading of the local newspapers during bear or cougar season can prove that.

On fear being a conditionable response - suicide bombers... take a relatively sane person, implant the notion that death as a martyr is glorious and a vehicle to Ala almighty - and you have someone walking into the face of danger little or no fear.

I think, in honesty, the hypothalamus is going the way of the appendix or adenoids...and will one day be a defunct part of human anatomy.

Due to our remarkably fast evolution we have managed to eliminate a great many "natural" dangers and our predators are very few...but not non-existant.

Fear is most useful in children and unfortunately that is where a lot of phobias begin and are nurtured. Until human children are born with all faculties needed to live independantly in a short few years after birth...fear won't be going away.

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 01:08 PM
I'm not sure I understand why the feeling of fear lingers. It seems that it should
happen like this: stimulus, fear, solution, fear goes away. But I find that fear
often comes about before any stimulus, only the thought of the stimulus, and when a solution is found, the fear still lingers.

Is that some sort of self punishment, designed to teach us? But really, I don't know why we would classically condition ourselves, when I like to think we could learn it pretty well without all the fuss.

Edit: Not to confuse the way i use classical conditioning in my post with the fear conditioning mentioned above. I am refering to the negative stimulus of fear that lingers after we learn our lesson, that in a sense our bodies classically condition themselves.

[edit on 27-4-2006 by Novise]

[edit on 27-4-2006 by Novise]

posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 01:34 PM
Fear: ok. I've felt fear to the point of unreasoning terror. For example, I've been beaten to the point my legs could no longer hold me up. I've tried to pull someone away from their lifetime's possessions whilst at the same time, the maniac who drenched those possessions with gallons of petrol, threatened to turn everything and anyone present into an inferno. I've been kidnapped. I've been pushed backwards over a balcony rail at the same time as the attacker tried to strangle me. I've witnessed what could only be described as a discarnate entity (ghost) in a locked house, late at night. I've run headlong through unknown territory in darkness in the middle of a violent thunderstorm and -- but for a flash of lightning that revealed a deep, wide and wildly surging drainage canal -- would have been drowned and carried out to sea. I've stood on deck and seen massive sharks circling beneath. I was subjected to a bizarre and terrifying ordeal by creatures (in which I can hardly believe myself) and ended up so terrified that I could only gibber mindlessly. I suffered agoraphobia for many years; finally controlled it and emerged (by comparison) ridiculously confident for a time. I pulled my siblings back from a high sand cliff, fractions of a second before the part they were standing on collapsed into broiling surf during the aftermath of a coastal cyclone. I've held an epileptic suffering a seizure by the jacket front and risked being pulled out of the open door of a railway carriage. And more.

Fear? It's instinctive. It galvanises; sometimes it paralyses.

Exposure to fear can in some cases work to reduce fear levels.

On the other hand, men who're battle hardened and believe they're beyond fear, have been known to faint at the sight of a needle or become reduced to fearful, babbling wrecks if their child is injured.

As much as I've known genuine terror/fear, I appreciate it in no way provides me immunity to future fearful situations.

posted on Apr, 28 2006 @ 09:19 AM

Originally posted by Dock6
I've been beaten to the point my legs could no longer hold me up...

biff bam thump

...pulled out of the open door of a railway carriage.

Holy smoke.

Dr. Jones, I presume? Dr. Indiana Jones?

With a CV like that, no-one's going to argue your credentials for talking about fear. The only question that springs to mind is, What in heaven's name does this person do for a living? International espionage agent? Itinerarant exorcist? Mercenary? Movie stuntsperson?

I'm particularly curious to know how this came about:

I've run headlong through unknown territory in darkness in the middle of a violent thunderstorm and -- but for a flash of lightning that revealed a deep, wide and wildly surging drainage canal -- would have been drowned and carried out to sea.

But I'm sure the knowledge deserves to remain closely guarded, which is why I have...

...voted Dock6 for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have used all of your votes for this month.

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