Fear May Be Overrated


Fear is often seen as a negative of useless emotion. Yet if the truth be told, we’re hard wired for fear. A little organ in the center of our brain—the amygdala—is responsible. It is part and parcel of our limbic center—the emotional switchboard of the brain. Here the thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus and the amygdala, work together to process sensory information, emotions and moods, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and, oh yes, I almost forgot, our memory. The limbic center is also responsible for activating the endocrine system—releasing important hormones in glands such as the pituitary, the pineal, the thyroid, and the adrenals.

So, if fear is so bad, what it is doing in our brain? Is it some kind of mistake or boo-boo on nature’s part? Or does it have some profitable use other than keeping us from taking valuable risks in life or creeping into our dreams, and thereby transmuting our deepest desires into nightmares?

Obviously, some things should be feared. Fear often helps us make prudent decisions where our safety is concerned. Fear also invites us to respect those dangers and give them their due. Importantly, however, fear also begs us to embrace courage, boldness, and fierceness. It is often said that without fear there would be no such thing as courage, for courage is only courage when we face life’s challenges with bravery and conviction.

Fear is the springboard to finding one’s voice—to courageously express one’s thoughts and feelings in a persuasive way. Not with anger or spite, but with confidence, strength and certainty. Fear is an invitation to live a larger life—to take on the dragons and giants that serve as obstacles to our life’s path.

It’s funny, but I have often had the experience when facing my demons, they shrink before my eyes. In other words, what fear makes into monsters, courage reduces into mice. I have come to the conclusion that it’s not so much fear that freaks me out, but the power I have when I am my most expressive and ferocious self. How beautifully scary would it be to live from that place?



Gwen Overland