Today I want to talk about the biology of fear and how it affects us. Sometimes fear can be unavoidable, such as when you face a life-threatening situation; for example, encountering a bear during a hike in the woods. Unfortunately, the fear I have observed most in other people is self-perpetuated. They were told by other sources, i.e. the media, relatives, etc., that they should be afraid. For example, they hear on the news that the economy is in a recession and getting worse. They fear they will lose everything even though there are no signs in their lives to show that the recession will affect them. For your improvement and growth, you must learn to live by faith, not fear.
Fear in Biology
Scientists have shown that our bodies are made up of single cells which have combined with trillions of other cells to form the human body. Each cell functions similarly to our bodies; they think, eat, react to stimuli, expel waste, etc. It was first thought that the nucleus of the cell controlled it but studies have shown that the membrane is the actual brain of the cell. It is the membrane that reacts to different stimuli.
The two categories of survival mechanisms our cells have adapted are protection and growth. Cells gravitate toward nutrients and retreat from toxins. Moving toward life-sustaining stimuli characterizes growth and away from life-threatening stimuli characterizes protection. The membrane opens for nutrients allowing the cells to feed but becomes hard and closes in the presence of toxins.
Scientists have also discovered that the two mechanisms cannot operate at the same time. A cell in protection mode cannot grow. (Lipton, et al., 1991) When cells are growing, they are not only expending energy but also creating it. Living a life of sustained fear (protection mode) inhibits the creation of energy needed to sustain life.
The biology of fear shows that fear creates stress, and the more stress you put on your body, the more cells that shift to protection mode. By eliminating the stress in your life you will bring your body back to a neutral state. Do we want to remain in a neutral state? No, we want to grow and thrive. In order to live life to the fullest and become the best you, eliminating stress is not enough. You must live your life in a happy, loving way that provides you with complete fulfillment. It will stimulate your growth processes. You do this by choosing to live your life in faith and eliminating fear.
The protection mechanism is not designed to be activated for a long time. In the example of encountering a pair, you would experience the threat and activate the flight, fight, or freeze response. Once the bear moves on and doesn’t attack, you would return to normal and have quite the story to tell. Living your life in fear chronically elevates the stress hormones and inhibits your growth as a person.
Individual cells combined into a community react to the prevailing thoughts and beliefs they are fed. We as humans cannot grow as a community as long as a vast majority of people live in perceived fear. An example of this is the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Before the tragedy of 9/11, the U.S. was growing and thriving. After that fateful day, the population was placed in a state of fear. Terrorism took hold, and we waited for the next attack. The population went into protection mode, and growth ground to a halt.
What About You?
The biology of fear is an interesting topic. Do you live by fear or faith? Faith is the only way you can grow and improve your life. Look inside and see what fears are holding you back. Are they perceived, or are they real? What impact do they have on you and those around you? You can control your fears and take your life back. Turn to faith and regain control over how you live. You and only you decide how your life will turn out. The first step is releasing your fears.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”
~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Lipton, Bruce H. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles. Hay House, Inc., 2016.