Fear and our response to fear comes from the amygdala. The amygdala anticipates fear and when it is activated, it induces the fight, flight, or freeze response. Evolution has provided us with the ability to protect ourselves in the face of a threat to our lives. The amygdala, in addition to the stress hormones which go surging through our veins, prepare us to take action to evade or fight what threatens us. We experience multiple physical symptoms, like the pulse quickening, muscle tension, sometimes we salivate, and more. Our body starts kicking into gear before we have fully evaluated the threat.
“Trouble starts when you can’t tamp down your amygdala’s response,” The New York Times reports in “Outsmarting Our Primitive Responses To Fear”, “which makes you obsess and perhaps do counterproductive things when faced with concerning but not life-threatening events…”
Re-routing fear in the brain
Fear responses are natural and kick in before we have our own conscious say in the matter. However, there is room for pause before we take action on our fear, by taking an internal action. We can acknowledge that we are experiencing fear and embrace the fact that we are experiencing fear. “Arresting an overactive amygdala requires first realizing and then admitting you’re feeling uneasy and scared,” the Times explains. For men especially, admitting fear, uneasiness, and discomfort is difficult to do. Men who are scared for their lives as a result of active drug and alcohol addiction have a difficult time speaking up and asking for help, for example. Their miswired brains interpret the fear of speaking up, or quitting using, as more threatening than the potential for fatal overdose or enduring through unmanageable life conditions.
Fear is felt more greatly when it is ignored and suppressed. J.K. Rowling once wrote in her famous Harry Potter series, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” The name “sobriety” or “recovery” or “weakness” or “failure” increases the fear of whatever is associated with those terms. “Consciously activating the more measured, analytical part of your brain is the key to controlling runaway fear and anxiety,” the article states. By stepping into fear, fear is more readily dealt with. By ignoring fear or sustaining fear, fear grows.
Tree House Recovery is a men’s residential treatment program located in Portland, Oregon. Creating sustainable recovery through sustainable change, our programs help men learn how to live sober with adventurous lives. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474