|Emotions and Feelings|
For Me Ness
Fear is a pure and fundamental emotion and is preprogrammed in the amygdala. No one has to learn to be afraid but everyone has to update his or her database and learn what new things are frightening. There is an archetypal list of feared objects: snakes, insects, heights, night, and small, dark, damp spaces that may hide creepy, crawly and slimy things. Humans are afraid of capture and imprisonment and fear small, closed spaces that may lack oxygen.
All animals are in danger everyday and yet must carry on with their lives and careers as if they are going to survive. Animals need calm, functional states and emergency programs that focus their attention and mobilize their resources to deal with danger.
Fear and anger are emergency programs. The basic idea is that as soon as a danger signal is detected, all attention is focused on the signal source and consciousness floods with an unpleasant feeling. The feeling is there to make sure you do not try to override the emergency program. The fear program is broadcast into the body via the sympathetic nervous system and the hormone adrenalin, secreted by the adrenal gland. Energy is mobilized through the release of glucose. The heart races and pumps more blood. Respiration accelerates to increase the oxygen content of the blood and all muscle tissue is put on alert.
Fear is preparation for fight or flight. The term “panic” describes fear that is associated with confused or vacillating behavior. Panic is a confused mixture of flight and flight. A movie audience panics when the theatre catches fire. They push and shove, punch and kick as they attempt to flee the building. When crowds panic, people die of suffocation and those who fall down, are trampled under foot.
Misslin describes the neural mechanisms of fear as a hierarchical network with the amygdala as point of convergence of threatening stimuli. The central nucleus of the amygdala projects to the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), the hypothalamus and the brainstem that coordinate flight, freezing, avoidance reactions, submissive postures, reduced pain sensitivity and autonomic arousal.
Fear is a strong aversive emotion and animals and humans quickly learn to avoid situations that made them afraid.
One of the goals of an affluent society is to reduce danger so that average citizen can feel confident that they are going to survive the day. Fear is the opposite of security and a fearful person does not feel confident that he or she is going to be safe. Fear, as a conditioning state, is also generalized to associated signals.
Humans are conditioned to associate fear with a wide range of stimuli that by themselves do not suggest danger. Conditioned fear may last a lifetime if the fear-triggering event was intense or repeated. Phobias are recurrent fears linked to avoidance behaviors that may result from conditioning or arise spontaneously because the fear program is overly active.
Anxiety is a common but fuzzy term that should refer to low intensity fear and to conditioned fear that tends to be recurrent, context dependent and not linked to an obvious threat such as a hungry lion confronting you on the sidewalk.
Anxiety also refers vaguely to many kinds of discomforts and dysphoria that all humans experience. An elaborate ethos of urban anxiety has developed in literature and in the curious and sometimes bizarre world of medical-psychiatric descriptions of the human experience. Physicians diagnose anxiety after brief conversations with patients and drug companies promote chemicals for the treatment of “anxiety disorders” as if experiencing life’s discomforts is a medical problem with a medical solution -- eating pills obtained from the pharmacy.
Emotions and Feelings