If you think you are immune from fear, your not.

This quote from Tony Robbins is great because so many of us especially men think they are beyond fear or they are tough guys who have no fear.  I was one of them at one point.  The ironic thing is that I was riddled with fear.  It was the dominant component of my personality, and I did a lot to conceal those fears.  The only person I was hiding my fear from was myself.

You Are Wired For Fear

Every person who is currently alive possesses within their head a brain.  Some may argue that certain people have more “brains” than others, but we are all born with one.  Within your brain is a structure known as the amygdala.  It is about the size and shape of an almond.  In fact, the word amygdala is a Greek word for almond.  This structure is often referred to as the fear center in the brain.  I like the saying that it is the guard dog of the brain because it acts like a guard dog.  It is always crouched on all fours ready to attack at the first sense of any danger.  This guard dog is fast.  It will react within 10 to 30 milliseconds when any threat is detected, whether real or not, with the majority not being true.  It begins the process of getting your body ready to react.  It is preparing you to fight or flee before you are consciously aware of the perceived threat.  So even if you’re a tough guy, this is going on within your head, and much of the time you don’t even know it.  This process is also commonly referred to as stress.  It is precisely the same process.

The Guard Dog Sees What You Do Not

There have been studies done with people who were cortically blind to test how well they can perceive threats.  Someone who is cortically blind has eyes that work properly, but due to damage to their brain, they cannot process images.  Some are partially blind others are completely cortically blind.  In this experiment, these subjects were completely cortically blind.  They were shown a series of pictures.  One of these pictures was a drawing of a fearful face.  Again, they couldn’t see the image consciously, but their amygdala saw it, and it reacted.  If blind people’s amygdala can see something threating imagine what you see every day. 

The guard dogs knows more than you do

The majority of the time when your guard dog is getting your body ready, you are oblivious to it.  The amygdala reacts to any potential threat quickly.  Between 10 to 30 milliseconds the guard dog is going into action releasing the various hormones to get you ready to fight or flee.  This thought does not reach your frontal cortex, which is where conscious awareness resides, for another second.  This may happen so quickly that you either don’t notice the thought or you quickly move on to the next thought, but your body knows.  This is going on throughout your day.

Another aspect for the tough guys and gals to consider is. Have you ever wondered why when you are doing mentally challenging work in a stressful environment, or you spend the day watching kids you’re completely exhausted at the end of the day?  You’re not doing anything that is physically challenging. You’re not chopping down trees or something like that, but you feel whipped.  The reason is that the guard dog has spent the day releasing stress hormones such as cortisol that flood your body and physically wear you down. 

Do yourself a favor

I hope that you can see that none of us are immune to fear, at least not completely.  However, you can create rituals and habits in your life to counter this aspect of the human condition.  I believe that this part of the human condition is the root of most of the challenges we face as a species with each other.  When someone speaks of “ego,” it arises from this lower part of our survival brain.  Realize this and take action.  Take some action to become more mindful of your moment by moment existence.  The time is now. You can start by attending our workshop “Learning To Live Fearlessly” this Saturday, May 6th at 10 a.m.  It will be held at Compass CBS in central Phoenix. 


Until Next Week,

Rich Decker – Mindful Accord