Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Fear

With my upcoming GenCon trip, I've noticed that I have a lot of anxiety about going on a trip that's nearly on the other side of the country.  Don't get me wrong, I am quite excited about going to Gencon.  I just have some fears about going.

I've heard once that all fears can be put into one of two categories: fear of the unknown or fear of what we can control.  For instance with my upcoming trip, some unknowns could be what the people I'm going to meet will be like, what kind of food I'll be eating, or even the layout of the convention center.  Some things I couldn't control would be if the plane crashes, if the bus crashes, or if it rains.  Most of those are just examples but you get the idea.

I decided to do a little research on fear.  Fear is actually different than anxiety.  Fear has a definite or certain external 'threat' of some sort.  Anxiety generally lacks that although the responses to fear and anxiety are the same, fear can be much easier to resolve because the problem is more immediate.

Fear (and by relation, anxiety) is actually a learned behavior.  Fear is generally acquired after a person experiences a traumatic event of some kind.  For instance, if a child falls down a well, the child could develop a fear of wells, water, heights, or even enclosed places.  In one case, an experiment was performed in which an 11-month old boy was conditioned to fear a small white puppy.  The fear even became generalized so that the boy would fear anything small, white, and fuzzy.  This even included cotton balls! (see here for more information on that)

I am reminded of a creature from Harry Potter called the boggart.  The boggart was a shape shifter that would turn into whatever a person into what a person feared most. (See here for more)

When a person is exposed to a stimulus associated with fear, their body will begin to produce hormones that prepares the person to either fight what they are afraid of, or to run away from it.  This is often referred to as the 'flight or fight' response.  Fear is typically viewed as a survival response to situations.  There actually are conditions where a person will totally ignore fear.  One example is a parent defending their child from a large predator.  Most parents would put themselves in mortal danger in order to protect their children.  This is considered to be an altered state of being.

To speak on a personal note, I have felt fear over a great many things.  I've felt fear about grades, meeting new people, going places, and travelling.  I've even mentioned my fear of being 'stuck' in a previous post.  Most of the times, what I feel is anxiety.  I've found that there are ways to deal with anxiety.  One of them is to stop thinking about what will happen and focus on what is actually happening around me.  Most of my anxieties are caused by trying to predict or forecast the future.  Focusing on the present helps to dispel my worries about the future.  I can deal with things as they come up.

In closing, I'd like to share some quotes about fear.

"Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering." - Yoda

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." - Mark Twain

“You always fear what you don’t understand.” - Batman Begins

(additional source for this article: Wikipedia)

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