Don’t Fear Fear
Getting gutted, mutilated, and devoured by wild animals is not the most common (or ideal) cause of death these days, but it once was. As a result of this, we humans have evolved a very strong sense of fear, but we no longer utilize it; and many think being afraid is something best avoided. Fear, however, is not a heinous or poisonous thing. Rather it is a super-tool that can now, due to the much more peaceful lifestyle we have, be totally exploited as a means to achieving a higher quality of life. (Werner, Evolutionary Psychology)
Fear cannot be avoided. An individual may shelter him/herself, or have the oppressive tendency to shelter another, but no matter how much effort one puts into avoiding dangerous and stressful situations, they cannot ever achieve a fully-fear-free life. To assume so is as ignorant as it is arrogant. Fear isn’t cigarettes, it isn’t an external poison that one can choose not to consume. Fear, unlike the tar our lungs, is produced internally and it always has been. Well, “always” in this sense, only dates back to about 200,000 years ago. This was when our ancestors were finishing up evolving into a species in which fear, stress, and anxiety became a primary part of its nature. It is only starting at about 8000 B.C.E where humanity began to dig into agriculture and domestication of animals and began to settle down. This turning point was only 10015 years ago which means we’ve only been the slightest bit civilized for only a whopping 5% of the 200,000 years our species has been a fearful one. The other 95% of the time was spent absolutely roughing it and living dangerously on the edge; constantly on the move and fighting to survive. Sharp fear reflexes were necessary in order for our species to make it far enough to settle down. Our great x 10^? grandparents and their parents before them, were some tough and stressed out motherfuckers and we inherited their trigger sensitive physiology. We all did. This means that no matter what we do or who we are there are things that, without thought or reason, will always trigger a stress response (and sometimes it is to an extreme of which could make for a pathological fear, but that is another subject) it is in our genes; spiders, the dark, heights, noises, lightening are some simple ones. (10 Oldest Civilizations)
Well, since fear is illogical and inescapable, why add to it? Trying to run from it doesn’t make any sense, its a part of us, and living in denial of it or repressing it will only cause mental illness. So the only logical thing left to do is embrace it. If embracing it sounds scary than we have some work to do…
We as a species, as a result of our 200,000 years of training have a seriously, deviously, sharp set of skills and it is a damn shame to let them go to waste. Imagine how disappointing it is if a musical virtuoso who has been composing all of her life decided that music was best to be avoided. That’s heartbreaking that she would just abandon her skills and talents after she put so many years of hard work into it. This is how most people treat their fear reflexes; that, or they just dabble in them on the side.
Most of the fear our ancestors felt was out of fear of physical harm and while there are still some examples of this in our modern setting, it is on a drastically smaller scale and is only typically applied when traffic or a poverty stricken neighborhood is involved. We (meaning, most westerners) live in a society now where we no longer need to worry about getting mauled by sabretooths and dying of starvation. Hell, we don’t even need to worry about most of the diseases that have plagued and killed many of our kind before us. Basically all we have to do to avoid physical harm is watch where we are going. This is easy and simple and not enough to fully satisfy our repressed fear reflexes that are just itching to be used.
People deny fear because they misunderstand it. They view is as something that causes mental trauma and do not welcome it. It is true that fear can lead to a lot of mental, and then physical, adverse conditions, but that is only after experiencing too much of it too consistently over too long of a period of time. Experiencing fear, or more preferably horror or thrill (safe fear, which will be addressed later) actually is very healthy. One could argue “but how can it be healthy if too much of it can be so harmful?” and simply, the response to that is, there is nothing that can’t be over-consumed, no matter how good it is. Hell, even drinking too much water will kill someone… and drinking water, just like fear, is natural and needed to survive.
Fear, as we know, keeps us alive physically, but, in our modern society, fear also keeps us alive socially. Without understanding fear, without being familiar with it and having our senses honed, nothing would hold us back from telling our boss to go fuck himself (for example).
In fact, another healthy social byproduct of fear is confidence. Confidence is essential for achieving marvelous things, so how is it built? Through fear. (Fear leads to success)
Take a single person who is out on the town and happens to stumble upon a crush in an unfamiliar bar. Instantly the individual will become fearful of many things, being seen by the person, how to behave, and it’s all amplified by the unfamiliarity of the environment. People who are in the delusion that fear should be suppressed, avoided and not exercised will sit in their seat and try their best to ignore it or they would even go so far as to leave; but others instead who understand and embrace fear will (regardless of their sex/gender) pick up their balls and go make a move. So this person in this bar takes the risk, and pulls it off, thus conquering the fear. No longer is this individual a victim to the fear, it is no longer capable of festering deep inside and growing into a mental illness. It is over and done with and now a possibility of something wonderful has been gained. Embracing fear is confidence. It could have been that the move was made out of the fear of the crush getting away and now that individual no longer needs to wonder about the outcome. Fear is what fueled the decision to make the move and because this a more confident person was born.
Without fear there are no risks. When we face our fears and take risks we live and we learn how to better equip ourselves for life’s challenges. A confident person is someone who has taken risks and either failed or succeeded but now have the tools to take on whatever lies ahead because of it.
View fear as a a sort of bitter tasting medicine that could lead to a well balanced human mind and higher quality of life. However, there are those who suffer from mental or emotional conditions which require that stress is to be avoided. Consuming fear as part of their diet may be rather difficult, if not an impossibility.
The fear of rejection. The fear of change. These things and more are examples of fear that may but smaller, or larger depending on the individual, and can be very very difficult for some to deal with; but these are examples of fear that should still be dealt with regardless in order to ensure a better quality of life. Otherwise how can a benefit such as confidence be gained? If someone is prescribed to avoid stress; that person is being sentenced to avoid what life offers.
It is good to experience fear regularly so that individuals know how to handle it when the time comes and to discover just how much of it they are personally able to handle. So how can we actively pursue fear to ensure we are getting our daily dose? How can we learn our limits on our free time? The horror medium is an answer. Consuming horror is something that can, among other amazing things (such as raising ones immune system livingflow.net), act as, a sort of, mental exercise and can lead to a better healthier state of mind. (Perhaps the horror medium is something that can be used as a gateway for people who can’t handle the stress of life; to start building up to it by handling fictional challenges. Maybe its exactly what they need. But, then again, I am not a psychologist.)
As previously established fear is not a reaction to any logical thought process. Fear is a sense all its own that kicks in in response to certain triggers without any preemptive reasoning. This is what allows horror to work. When someone is watching a horror movie, or playing a horror game, usually a conscious decision was made to consume that medium in the first place. The individual knows its not real, that it’s just a product of someone else’s imagination and that there is no way for it to harm them. However, this participant still feels fear. This is an example of how deeply seeded the fear reflexes are and no amount of logic can keep them from kicking in and there is no way to repress them. The only option is to go with it. That’t was 200,000 years of development of an involuntary response will do. Therefore horror is a safe, surefire way to explore and exercise and tune fear reflexes without having to take risks. It is great practice for developing ones mind in the long run and there are even some short term, immediate benefits as well such as pleasure, euphoria, entertainment and relief. (6 health benefits of horror films)
So, do not be afraid; start being afraid.
Werner, Maximillian. “Why Do We Crave Horror? Evolutionary Psychology and Viewer Response to Horror Films – Bright Lights Film Journal.” Bright Lights Film Journal. 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
“Does Watching Horror Movies Strengthen Your Immune System?”LivingFlow. 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
“8 Reasons Why Fear Is Good for You – Existing2Living.” Existing2Living. 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Jourdan, Thea. “Can Fear Be Good for Your Health?” Netdoctor. 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Audhikari, Saugat. “10 Oldest Ancient Civilizations Ever Existed.”AncientHistoryLists. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Rivera, Ryan. “6 Health Benefits of Watching Horror Movies – Jarvis City.”Jarvis City. 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.