The way we act, feel and think is influenced by the fear, that underlies every thought and action. Can we really influence our behavior by fear? Some psychologists say yes. In their opinion, our own behavior is a reflection of our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if we tell ourselves a fear-based story, it can become a reality in a way. Our conscious decisions may not have a huge impact on our behavior, but our unconscious thought processes have a massive impact on how we see the world. Fear can lead to different behaviors. The fear, that comes from external threats encourages us to take precautions against dangerous situations. In this article, we'll explore the relationship between fear and the resulting behavior, that ensue.
Our brains process information in a way, that makes it extremely difficult for us to resist that information, to the point that most people don't have a choice in the matter. We become highly suggestible and are at the whim of our senses. In psychology, it's known as the "appeal to authority" where an unknown source is heavily relied upon as fact. In this case, the "authority" is our own bodies and what they are capable of. The senses are the gateway to all that is in the world. What we see, we hear, we feel and we smell all provide data to our brains, which in turn process into something, that our mind comprehends as behavior.
When we're in a state of fear, the sensory information gained from our surroundings is more prominent. We are able to become more aware of the things going on around us, which is very useful in dangerous situations. However, being aware is not the same as seeing clearly. When we are in a stressful situation, we begin to distort what we see in order to make the world make sense. This is a survival mechanism of the brain. But, in extreme cases, we can go into a state of "flashback" and relive the experience, that triggered the stress in the first place.
Feeling is the perception of which sensations enter the body and are interpreted to be something positive by the brain. Our brains are hardwired to look for threats and focus on them. When we are in a state of fear, the sensations that the world around us transmits to the brain are exaggerated. This can be observed in certain types of psychosis, such as those who have experienced prolonged trauma and/or who have been highly suggestible. For example, a person who saw a fire on the street when they were just a child can be convinced that the devil made the fire. Their brain will take that suggestion and build upon it, creating a full blown delusion.
In the context of this article, the information that the senses give to the brain is distorted in a way, that serves a certain function. This manipulation of information can be for the purpose of evasion, which is what I believe is going on when someone is pretending to be something they're not. This can also be for the purpose of deception, which is why I would treat anything a person told you with extreme skepticism.
We've established, that fear can influence the way we see the world. There is another thing, that fear can influence and that is distortion of time.
The thing about fear is that it can create an intense state of vigilance. This is especially true in situations, where the consequences of acting in a certain way are drastic. In this case, there is a clear and present danger. If we are going to survive, we need to pay close attention to avoid said danger. One of the ways in which we do this is by distorting time.
It's well known, that people who are in a fearful state often speak of feeling time passing slower. But, we are actually able to slow down or even skip time all together. This is because the brain has a hard time comprehending a situation, that is so out of the ordinary. So, when the body is preparing for fight or flight, the brain has to work extra hard in order to make sense of what is happening. In this state of heightened awareness, the body can become unresponsive. This is often the case with people, who have been poisoned or have a severe allergic reaction.
I'm not a scientist, so I won't go into any more detail, but the way I see it, when we are in a state of fear, we have little to no control over the way that time progresses. This is one of the reasons why people in a state of fear often make irrational decisions.
Fear is the basis of all behavior, well, good behavior anyway. By fear, I mean the emotion that we feel when we perceive a threat to our well being.
We have an instinct to act in certain ways. These are the right things to do in order to survive. Other times, we do the exact opposite because of a fear-based distortion of information. The result is irrational and counterproductive behavior. One of the ways in which our brains attempt to deal with the stress of fear is by putting our own needs on the backburner.
In psychology, this is called "cognitive dissonance". Meaning, when two conflicting views are presented to the brain, the brain picks one over the other. This is why we are hardwired to choose the path of least resistance. When the situation doesn't allow for a choice, the brain simply represses the behavior or thought process. This is why we act out of character, we do things against our better judgment, or we say things or think thoughts, that we know to be untrue.
How do we deal with all this? A state of fear is often a state of distraction. We are too preoccupied with our own survival to think clearly. In this state, we make poor choices.
Fear is also a feeling, that is very easy to manipulate. By increasing the amount of fear we have in a situation, we are able to make that situation much more threatening. This is why many people are able to get people to do things, that they otherwise wouldn't do.
Remember, fear is a feeling that the brain conjures to create a sense of urgency. So, if we can't argue with the brain, then we need to work around it.
Here is what we can do:
Avoid The Trap
Fear is a very powerful emotion. It is an adversary, that seeks to disrupt our logic and reason. If we let it, fear can cause us to make poor decisions, act irrationally, and yield to desperation. If we are able to avoid falling into the pit of despair and hopelessness, then we can better manage fear.
Therefore, the best way to handle fear is to avoid it. If we can't avoid a situation, then we might as well do something to change it. After all, fear is going to do one thing and that is to make us react. The more we can anticipate and prepare for, the more we can keep the feeling of fear at bay. This is the foundation of self-defense and survival. By preparing for a dangerous situation, we can reduce the fear that is present in that situation.
Think And Act Rationally
Once we have reduced the fear, we can begin to think more clearly. We can take the time to prepare ourselves mentally and physically. By preparing, we are choosing to lessen our own sense of fear, and in turn, lessen the fear that we see in others.
This doesn't mean, that we become arrogant or disrespectful. It simply means, that we are evaluating every situation before we act on it. Being afraid doesn't automatically mean, that we are wrong. In fact, being afraid is the first step to being correct.
After we have prepared, we can act with more confidence. As we have seen, confidence is a large part of being able to avoid or overcome fear. If we are lacking in, then we will not succeed.
This article is my entry for Infinity's writing prompt "Fear".