Phobias are intense fears that trigger a response of stress or anxiety. Scientists have defined fear as “the neurophysiological processes that prepare an organism to perform innate or learned responses to cope with danger.”
That’s great, except for the many times the organism (which is you and I) perceives a non-danger as something dangerous. When that happens — and it often does — it means we are going through life with more caution, restrictions and limitations than is actually necessary for safety.
This is similar to driving 35 miles an hour on a highway that’s intended for 65 miles an hour. Sure, an accident is a risk. But it is more likely that you will reach your destination without any harm or injury. The unnecessary slowness may even cause trouble to traffic flow.
We could all probably do a better job distinguishing actual danger, from non-dangers that we still fear due to irrationality. And that is exactly what mindfulness and meditation does; it helps us become calm and present, and from that space of groundedness, we can face and even resolve some of our longest standing fears.
Consider claustrophobia (<— link to audio), which is a fear of confinement, or small places. For 11% of the US population, this phobia makes riding an elevator, and other forms of public transportation difficult, if not impossible. That is a significant restriction in life, when you think about all the desirable things on the other side of the elevator or airplane ride. Life can be organized to avoid what you fear, or to face it. Understanding exactly how it operates in the human body will help lessen its debilitating power.
The Physiology of Fear
- Stimulus: Imagine you survived a terrible house-fire when you were a child. As a result of that trauma (<— link to PTSD audio), you now experience instant fear and panic whenever you hear a siren from a fire truck.
- Meditation: Our audio meditations show you how to self-regulate, so when you are triggered or stimulated to fear, you can actually pause, rather than panic. And then go on to recognize your feelings, before you react to them. When the siren is heard, you will be able to remind and console yourself that you are safe in your present moment, and the fear you feel is rooted in a memory, now passed away.
- Amygdala: As time goes on, the more you re-train your brain to respond with relaxed, mindful awareness, the amygdala gives less and less severe phobic reactions. This reformation happens thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is its beautiful ability to continuously change. And because of it, it is possible to free yourself from automatic reactions to fears and phobias, simply by using the remarkable power of your mind.
What has fear kept you from experiencing or achieving in your life? What dreams have you been denied, and how would your days and nights be different if you feared less, and lived more? Bravery has never been easier to choose, and you won’t be doing it alone.