We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

You’ve probably seen Amanda Palmer’s viral TED speech by now. If you haven’t, take a moment to watch it.

The very act of creation is scary. For me the scary parts come from the fear of putting too much of myself on the page, being the literary equivalent of a clueless Idol competitor as well as the fear of my writing never finding an audience, none of which is something that I can actually control. That doesn’t stop me worrying of course because I like having a clear plan of action and there is none for those three. You just keep writing and keep submitting and someday, maybe, they will stop being sources of fear. Or maybe not as both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman still talk about the Impostor Syndrome despite everything they’ve accomplished.

But it’s not just creating things that causes fear and anxiety. There’s all kinds of things in everyday life that cause near-crippling fear; stage-fright, financials, asking for help. And that’s not even mentioning the fear to life and limb that comes with being a societal species living on a planet that’s actively plotting to kill us to get at our squishy insides. Nor am I talking

And yes, some fears are extremely useful. You come across a bear in the woods? Totally makes sense to be afraid. Going to speak in front of other people? Maybe not so much. Well maybe if it’s likely that the audience might start throwing things at you. My personal experience is that audiences don’t do that. Your mileage may of course vary.

Fear does have physical consequences. Whenever we’re afraid, our brain goes on overdrive, trying to squeeze all the performance possible from our bodies. In the long term, to paraphrase that classic of classics Top Gun, our brains start writing checks our bodies can’t cash. In the short term simply flooding the body with a raised level of blood sugar keeps the creditors at bay but sooner or later the body won’t just bounce back.

So what to do about those checks? One established form of therapy is apparently simply confronting your fears. To be clear, I’m not talking about going into the forest to find a bear but rather about finding public speaking opportunities if that’s what makes you quake. As far as I understand this seems to be based on the fact that after the scary moment is over, the experience is stored by the Amygdala and Hippocampus.

The other thing to try I came across was meditation which sounds a little hippyish I admit. But taking the time daily to just be quiet and push your fears aside is apparently very good for you.

In extreme cases and phobias it’s possible to use drugs called glucocorticoids that causes the Amygdala not to receive the message that we are now afraid.

In the end, fear is a useful and necessary part of our lives as long as we don’t let it run them.

What kind of things do you do to get rid of fear?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *