The different scientific studies in the field of neurobiology show us that we often suffer not so much from the fear caused by the facts themselves, but rather by our imaginations, by what we think about the real facts. They are mental representations that have been formed in our brain, and it is quite a challenge to get rid of them again.
We need fear to protect ourselves from danger and to survive. If a tiger pounces on me, I will react by running away. My body will secrete adrenaline and I will flee to avoid that dangerous situation and recover normality as soon as possible. In our society, it is unlikely that we will have to deal with a tiger, but there are events or situations that represent a real threat to our existence: a whole life full of illusions that is cut short by a car accident or illness, problems at work that distress us, difficult situations with the children… circumstances that, in one way or another, are dangerous for us. And in the face of these dangers, fear makes us react. It therefore has considerable utility, since it protects us through strategies that allow us to survive, even in difficult situations. Once the problem is found and solved, we will return to peace of mind and the normal course of our existence.
But what happens if that tiger, instead of being real, is created by our mind? If, instead of having an accident, we imagine that we have one? work problem, the final dismissal…?, what happens if it is our head that causes our heartbeat to accelerate, we start to sweat, the rate of breathing increases, tremors appear, chills, chest pain, dryness in the mouth, dizziness, headache…? The truth is that our fear can appear because of these two possibilities, the real one and the one produced by our imagination. And we have been able to verify this fact, in a special way, during the pandemic caused by the Sars-Cov-2 virus, since on many occasions the fear we felt was not due to a real danger but to what, spurred on by the social and media environment, was created in our imagination.
However, whether due to an objective fact or because of our mind, the sensation of fear is real and the person who suffers under this fear will try all means to return to the initial peace as soon as possible in which the physiological stress reaction disappears and stops upsetting us. But how can we get rid of that fear —real or imaginary— that causes so much anguish and that causes our brain —according to neurobiologists— to be overwhelmed by a state of incoherence?1A first option is to change and dismantle the conditions that have led to that situation that causes deep discomfort. Another possibility would consist of adapting to the needs that the new situation requires. And, thirdly, we could change our attitude towards life, prioritizing what is truly important in order to be happy and enjoy life.
Repeated fear and, in particular, the fear of fear, cause the formation of new neural networks that, if not properly managed or eliminated, can produce automatisms in a few weeks or days that, through synaptic junctions between neurons, can be rooted deep in the brain.
The main objective of this work is to shape the new knowledge about what is really hidden behind the feeling of fear. Our organic approach embraces the novel possibility that human beings can learn to overcome a good number of limiting fears, thanks to the attitude we take towards life. To achieve certain objectives, the human being is capable of repressing certain fears, but we are also capable of intensifying them.
The methodology used in this text is based, first of all, on field research carried out at the Medical School of the Humboldt University of Berlin over several years on the performance
1/ Gerald Hüther, Wege aus der Angst. Über die Kunst, die Unvorsehbarkeit des Lebens anzunehmen, Göttingen, 2020, pp. 34-42. In this article, I use the word «coherence» in a neurobiological sense that refers to brain harmony. The specific way of working of the brain is characterized by being optimized to «save energy» and this occurs when everything fits well and all brain areas are harmoniously linked to each other, something that happens constantly after having overcome the challenges of everyday life. We distinguish coherence in an ethical sense when someone says and does what they think. She is a person that one can trust because there is no duplicity or deceit in her. Obviously, there is a close relationship between both types of coherence, since both concepts indicate a unifying principle that brings together everything we do based on what we really seek and want to incorporate into our lives.
of fear according to neurobiological guidelines. For this, we have to realize that the human being is not a machine, as many said in the last century. Human beings constantly need new challenges to be able to overcome them with controllable stress, that is, good stress. In this way, we can better adapt to the many demands of life.
When we think that we can control everything with our own efforts, we become careless and that is when inconsistent situations arise that we do not know how to overcome. So we need fear and even to experience our helplessness, as has happened with the COVID disease, to face great challenges with humility. This virtue will help us to accept life as it is.