The Good News about Fear George Rynick Skip Ellis
The Good News about Fear • Brief summary of fear and the brain • Summary of some current “self-help” books about fear • Turning fear into “fear power” • Exercise and audience participation
Fear and the Brain • Godehart presented a true scientific understanding, this is a general public understanding • Fear involves structures in the brain and chemicals (neurotransmitters, hormones, etc) that are activated when we feel fear • Very efficient, do not have to be conscious of danger signal for the brain to respond • Fear is contagious, brain helps recognize fear in the faces of others, it also automatically scans for it • Cornerstone of capacity for empathy- to know what another feels
Fear and the Brain • Flight or fight response from sympathetic branch of ANS when senses pick up danger in nearby environment—danger signals flow throughout body in chemical cascade • Neurons start to fire in brain stem, the amygdala in emotional midbrain, hypothalamus sends hormones to pituitary gland which signals the adrenals that sends out stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline that increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing to increase and blood to flow to extremities so fight or flee. • This is normal response to sense of danger and the system in designed to return to a non-heightened state once the danger has passed.
Fear and the Brain • When internal security system is hyper-sensitive it can respond to harmless signals as if they were actual threats— • This over activates the danger response so the adrenals pump out excessive levels of stress hormones and we are relentlessly jittery, fearful, hyper vigilant, and we are physically and emotionally exhausted. • Hyper-sensitivity involves the hippocampus (memory storage) and amygdala (emotions) at the core of the limbic system (emotional brain). • These are both directly connected to the hypothalamus, the command center for the danger response. So fearful memories or associations or an on-guard, over-reactive limbic system can result in a trigger happy emotional brain for fear and anxiety. • At the same time the neocortex (thinking brain) is under active and is not applying the normal checks and balances on the emotional brain.
Fear and the Brain • At the same time, the inhibitory signals that the danger has passed are malfunctioning. These chemicals or neurotransmitters pass information from one neuron to the next and are the basic carriers of emotional information in the brain. • There are three neurotransmitters that are essentially involved in fear and anxiety serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA. Norepinephrine mediates anxiety while serotonin and GABA quiet the stress response. • In chronic anxiety these are either overactive, deficient, or not making the right neuron to neuron connection. At the neuron level this is a chemical failure to communicate. Problem in both anxiety and depression.
Fear and the Brain • Can think of this as a dance in order for serotonin and GABA to stop the stress response. You need the right number of dancers, not too few or too many, and good choreography (connection to the receptor sites on the neighboring neuron) in order for serenity and calm in the mind-body system. • When this does not happen, the result is unrelenting fear, panic, phobia or other anxiety disorders.
Fear • Emotional state in the presence of a dangerous or unpleasant stimulus, current threat, • Internal subjective experience of extreme agitation, • Body response- autonomic nervous system • Desire to flee or attack • Identified threat • What we experience when we encounter the bear in the woods • Fuck Everything And Run
Anxiety • Oriented toward future, • Anticipated situation or event in the future • Body response- autonomic nervous system • Perceived threat • Prepare for flight or fight • Anxiety sees the world as more dangerous than it really is. Outer real dangers and inner imagined dangers. • What we experience when we think about encountering the bear in the woods • Future Experienced As Reality
Anxiety Sensitivity • Anxiety sensitivity is the fear of the sensations we experience when we encounter the bear in the woods or even think about encountering the bear in the woods. • First there is fear then there is fear of fear • Cognitive style that involves an extreme fear of your own anxiety bodily responses or symptoms and tendency to catastrophize • Belief that anxiety symptoms have harmful consequences such as physical or mental illness, loss of control, or social embarrassment • High AS lower tolerance for anxiety provoking situations • Genetic component • Environmental component • Attachment style – high AS more likely for preoccupied and fearful avoidant styles (negative model of self)
Anxiety Sensitivity • Those with fear of fear are highly sensitive to the physical sensations of anxiety and tend to pay close attention to those sensations when they arise. • The increased attention amplifies the sensation, leading to a heightened state of anxiety and possibly a panic attack. • Panic disorder and PTSD have highest levels of AS • Severity of AS related to severity of PTSD • AS risk factor for PTSD • Correlation of AS and depression especially fear of loss of control • Correlation of AS and substance abuse
Therapeutic Approaches • Feel the Fear and Beyond- Susan Jeffries, 1998 • Overcoming the Fear of Fear: How to Reduce Anxiety Sensitivity-Watt & Stewart, 2008 • The Anxiety Book: Developing Strength in the Face of Fear—Davidson, 2003
Therapeutic Approaches • Take a cognitive- behavioral orientation • Focus on changing thinking especially automatic negative thoughts (ANT) • Increased reality testing • Challenge ANTs • Exposure therapy • Exercise, diet • Relaxation • Behavior changes • Higher self or spiritual practice • Learn to live with anxiety and manage it
Therapeutic Approaches • Jeffries adds • Act as if • Affirmations • Know that you count and 100 per cent commitment to what is important to you • What would I do if I really counted • Become a giver so you are not so worried about what you will get • There is nothing as satisfying as taking action
Therapeutic Approaches • They all ignore: • Freezing in addition to flight/fight • Working with emotions • Recognizing levels of emotions • Importance of changing relationships
What Does BP Have to Offer • Working directly with the emotion • Having a bonded experience while working with fear • Using the energy contained in the emotion • Using cognitive restructuring while bonding • Taking in pleasure after having expressed the fear • AND, converting fear to FEAR POWER