top of page

FEAR: What is it, really?

Updated: Sep 12

The human brain has evolved over approximately 600 million years, progressing through three stages:

  • First, we had the 'reptile' brain that operates at high speed, constantly scanning for threats. Its sole focus is survival, actively avoiding harm.

  • Then came the 'mammal' brain, which introduced the limbic system responsible for seeking rewards and pleasurable experiences.

  • Finally, in the past 50,000 years or so, the 'primate' brain emerged, enabling higher-level thinking and executive functions while relying on social connections for growth.

"The Raft of the Medusa" by Théodore Géricault - 1819

External factors continue to influence our brain in the same order:

  • They first activate the threat scanning mechanism.

  • Next, they impact the limbic system, evaluating potential rewards and pleasure.

  • Finally, they reach the executive functions of our brain, where higher-level thinking occurs.

Consequently, fear emerges as our fundamental and instinctive emotion, while anxiety arises as an immediate behavioral consequence, occurring involuntarily.

However, the principle of neuroplasticity grants us the remarkable ability to reshape our brains. This means we can establish new neural pathways that foster the development of fresh habits and behaviors. By actively engaging in activities that strengthen these newly formed pathways, we create space within our 'primate' brain to perform executive functions such as decision-making and problem-solving.

Understanding that our reptilian brain, driven by survival instincts including fear, anxiety, and ego, limits the higher-level functions of our 'primate' brain is crucial. Nonetheless, we possess the capacity to overcome obstacles presented by our reptilian brain and—thereby—reach our full potential. This requires acknowledging the brain's potential for growing new neural pathways through neuroplasticity and actively pursuing constructive changes in our brains.

In daily life, neurotransmitters and hormones play a significant role in experiencing fear and the fight-flight-freeze response. The release of neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and noradrenaline triggers rapid physiological changes, preparing the body for action in response to perceived threats. Hormones like cortisol are released in response to stress and help regulate the body's stress response.

By understanding the interplay of these neurotransmitters and hormones, we can gain insights into our daily experiences and reactions. This knowledge empowers us to manage fear, anxiety, and stress effectively, promoting a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

In summary, the human brain's evolution across different stages has shaped our cognitive processes. External factors influence our brain in a specific order, leading to the emergence of fear as a fundamental emotion. However, neuroplasticity allows us to alter our brain's pathways and facilitate executive functions. Recognizing the limitations of our reptilian brain enables us to strive for growth and reach our full potential that goes beyond being an entity living to survive or desiring short-term pleasure as we did 50.000+ years ago. Moreover, understanding the involvement of neurotransmitters and hormones in fear responses empowers us to navigate daily life with resilience and emotional well-being.

  • Do you notice when your fear-response is active? Or have you developed language for it to accept it, such as (but not limited to!) "I have temperament," or "I'm just not a great communicator," "I am smart to decide where I am" (when considering a bold move.)

  • Are you aware of the daily patterns that you have wired-in around fear-based behaviors?

  • Do you sometimes think "I am better than them" continuing in your lane, satisfied? That is your ego keeping you in the known. In this comfort zone, nothing new can happen.Your potential lies just outside of your comfort zone.


Recent Posts

See All

Neuroplasticity challenges the traditional view that the adult brain would be fixed and unchangeable. Instead, research has shown that...

bottom of page