I had read an interesting article many years ago about culture. This was in college so forgive me for not remembering the author or name of the article. The premise of it was that the fears of a culture are more telling than the achievements. Blew my socks off. The idea is that what scares us tells more about us than all of the accomplishments. Ponder that for a moment.
Fear is very powerful. Franklin D. Roosevelt said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. In the novel “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” the boggert caught by Professor Lupin would turn into a dementor when Harry approached it. Which meant that Harry was more afraid of fear than Lord Voldemort the most evil wizard of the time. Harry’s best friend Ron was scared of spiders. Other people in the novel were afraid of snakes, full moons, etc. What students of Hogwarts learned by facing the boggert was to face their fears and overcome them. Well, at least make them less scary.
Thinking about the article for a moment, as a culture or society that expresses so much through the internet and social media, could these outlets become amplifiers for our fears? Just as the “boggert” of Harry Potter stories reflected fear, could the internet and social media be doing the same thing? I remember when the internet was beginning. One of the things that was said in praise of it was that you could find anything on the internet. And when social media started, it was said that you could find anyone or any group you could ever want to identify with on social media. It could be said that there is good and bad aspects to both of those things. And I am not going to go into what is on television and the news. (War, inflation, disease, hate.) Scary things happen in the world.
Believe it or not, there are benefits to fear. What might those be, you ask? Don’t worry. I have a list:
- Fear keeps you safe. You have an internal danger alarm. It notifies us of dangerous situations and compels us to take action. Helps you make a wise decision. For example, if you are crossing a street and a car comes toward you, your inner alarm urges you to get out of the street and away from the car.
- Fear helps you lose weight. Feeling a bit of fear helps burn calories. While walking through the haunted house a ghost jumps out at you. Your body releases a surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes your metabolism to go into high gear, causing you to burn more calories.
- Fear temporarily boosts immunity. In 2009, Coventry University in the United Kingdom did a study where Scientists tested white blood cells in participants. They then scared the participants and measured the number of activated white blood cells. Activated white blood cells are the ones that help fight disease and repair the body. After being scared, the participants had an increased number of activated white blood cells.
- Feeling fear can be exciting. Feeling fear, in the right dose, makes you feel alive. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be exciting. Have you ever given a speech or had a role in a play? Feeling nervous before you start speaking or the play starts leads to the feeling of excitement and being alive after the speech or play has ended.
- Fear gives you a natural high and sense of empowerment. Not just adrenaline, the body releases dopamine and the endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin helps the brain work more efficiently under stressful situations. Fear is energy.
- Fear relaxes you. That’s right. You read it correctly. The adrenaline has surged and dopamine has been released into the body increasing blood flow. After the fear or situation has been faced. You are now in a safe location and there is no danger. Your body has had influx of oxygen to the heart and muscles. When the body comes off of this natural influx, it relaxes completely in a healthy way.
- Fear helps you stay in the moment. Focus. The hormone norepinephrine helps keep you focused instead of panicking in stressful situations.
- Fear helps you socialize and bonds you to other people. If our ancient ancestors had not bonded together and helped each other survive, our society would not exist. It is in our best interests to help one another. The hormone Oxytocin produces pro-social behavior. Bonding. Every see a race, like Ironman, and notice that the contestants competing against each other also help each other by encouraging each other. The hormone Oxytocin in action.
- Fear allows you to live life to the fullest. Fear tends to cause people to make one of two choices. They can either stop and limit themselves or face their fear head on and expand the possibilities of their lives. Personally, I am in favor of the second option.
- Fear gives clarity on what is important. Fear makes one realize that the only time is now. How often a terminal diagnosis or finding out about a disease like cancer causes people to live their life fully. Spending time with those they love and doing things that they have always wanted to do. The fears they had before become less important than spending the time they have to the fullest.
Maybe fear can help us as a society. Help us be better people. Learn from our mistakes. Make the world a little less scary. I certainly hope so.