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 Chiron on Fear

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maija
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PostSubject: Chiron on Fear   Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:33 pm


Fear and Trepidation




Some disjointed thoughts on fear:


Dealing with fear, terror and trepidation, all the little variations on an emotional reaction to a bad thing
is more complex than I would like it to be. Trying to explain to K the
other day that I haven't felt real fear (if you define fear as the
monkey in your brain screaming, "Oh my god we're all gonna die!!!!") in
a long time. It's more trepidation- something else, definitely not a
monkey and not screaming- giving a long suffering sigh and saying,
"This is not going to end well." And then you get to work.

Here's the question- is there really a difference and if so, where did it come from?


Little
background. I'm a believer in the James-Lange theory of emotion, which
states roughly that we make up the emotions after the fact. Not:
1) See the bear
2) Get scared
3) Run
More like:
1) See the bear
2) Run
3) Realize that you were scared


There
are a lot of subtly different flavors, but there are only a handful of
basic hormone cocktails that your body dumps into your bloodstream in
times of stress. Your palms sweat, your knees shake, you forget to
breathe, there's a rushing sound in your ears... If you just saw a
bear, you know you were afraid. If you just saw a beautiful stranger,
the same symptoms can seem like love at first sight, or at least
infatuation*. The emotion, in the sense of the label, how we explain it
to ourselves, comes well after the chemical reaction.


So,
when people talk about dealing with fear, dealing with adrenaline, what
are the tools? What are we really talking about? The chemical or the
label?


There was a long space where I was
almost completely burned out. Getting trapped upside down in a kayak in
icy water was annoying. Good odds I was going to die and pretty sure it
would be an embarrassing way to die, but the hormone cocktail trickling
into my veins really didn't rise to the level of fear.
That's
different, though. It wasn't some trained skill or even being inured,
there was a physical issue- my body wasn't producing a normal dose of
adrenaline. It allowed me to think more clearly, which worked out fine.
But it wasn't a good thing. Not healthy at all. Plus most of my hobbies
quit being fun.


Normal times, I still feel the
symptoms, if I have time. If I know things are going to go bad, there's
a little burning sensation in the back of my head and it feels like my
ears are trying to stand up like an alert dog. Sometimes the palms get
sweaty. My voice doesn't get squeaky like it used to (except for the
first few seconds public speaking). I haven't got the shakes, even a
finger tremor, in years. It doesn't feel as intense as when I
was a rookie, but how do you tell if there is less adrenaline in your
system of if the level of adrenaline just doesn't seem unusual? Do I
not get the shakes because my body doesn't want to, or because I have
more practice controlling it? Is there a difference? Functionally,
maybe not, but if there is a difference in mechanism it means different
ways to achieve the condition (assuming you would want to.)


Emotionally,
what adrenaline there is, doesn't feel like it used to. It used to be
heavily based on a fear of injury or death or (and this is huge, but
almost never explicitly stated) helplessness or impotence: If I hit
this guy with everything I have and nothing happens; if he destroys me
without breaking a sweat like I am nothing, then what am I? What did
all this training or working out really mean? It's a very sub-surface
thought and very, very common. Most of the fear in a fight, especially
a one-on-one, is social, not physical. Subconsciously, I think that
this fear drives a lot of training and gear collecting and other types
of macho posturing. (Not all training is macho posturing, but whether
it is or not depends on the student, not the training.)


That
social fear of helplessness doesn't seem to enter into it much anymore.
If I think about the hormones beyond just noticing them hit my system,
it usually translates as performance anxiety- what if I look stupid to
the officers I have been teaching? It's less personal, less about my
health or identity and far more about their faith in my teaching.


One
piece of that is huge- 'just notice the hormones'. There really isn't
any need to label them. Most of the time I don't, and that seems to
work fine. How much of the cognitive deficit in stress situations is
because the human monkey is trying to come to terms with an emotional
state instead of just feeling it and moving on?






*
And you can reliably trigger this in another person, consciously
inducing the feeling that often gets translated as 'romantic love.'

_________________
"It will be difficult at first, but then everything is difficult at first". Miyamoto Musashi
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