This system is vital because it quickly alerts us to danger, preparing us for running away or staying still (freezing).
We have an innate ability to respond with fear to some of the most important dangers we face, i.e. experiencing pain always arouses our fear system because we survive much more effectively if we notice that pain is a threat to us and needs to be avoided.Seeing our FEAR response as helpful is key to effective expression – it’s telling us something is threatening to us and needs attention. What threatens us is about our previous experience as well as actual threat, and we need to use our full mind and our connection with others (not just our instinctive FEAR response) to help us make good choices and know when and how we need to use our energy – to respond, to freeze or to calm ourselves.
Activation and expression
Our FEAR system focuses our attention on immediate threat,
- it gets energy to our limbs so we can fight or flight
- it diverts energy away from less important functions for our immediate survival (like digestion, reproduction and fighting disease)
If the danger is so powerful that we cannot fight or run away, our FEAR system responds differently, still focusing our attention on the immediate threat, but changing the way we respond to a freeze reaction which can save our life by making it seem that we are dead to predators.
- effecting the way we process information and our cognitive and perceptual capacity.
The impact of an on-going activation of this system, where the threat, danger or fear of death is present for months and years on end, can be very difficult – with a possible shift from the actual danger to everything being experienced as dangerous and the fear system continuing to react long after the actual harm has passed. Like all systems – the more it is used – the stronger it becomes.
When this system is activated chronically, the impact can be very distinct – we can experience a quick and strong fear response to very mild triggers, i.e. a jumpy, startle response, increased heart rate, skin response (goosebumps or hairs on end), etc to mild unexpected or even expected experiences / noises. Internally, our body can be effected in a variety of ways – inefficient use of energy with increased fat deposition, skin problems, like eczema, loss of libido, heart disease memory loss, and thinking patterns, with thoughts racing or blankness.