If you’ve ever experienced trauma you may find yourself more ‘jumpy’ than others. You may experience fear in certain situations where there isn’t actually a direct threat to your safety, leaving yourself wondering why you feel scared when you’re not in any real danger.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone, and there’s a very good biological reason for your reaction. Fear is a hard-wired emotion in your brain and nervous system.
The function of fear
Can you imagine if you were born without fear? You’d be a total thrill seeker – jumping off rooftops, running through a lion cage, speeding down the highway the wrong direction, skydiving without a parachute…Thankfully, for the continuation of our species, we’re all born with the emotion of fear!
Think of fear as your internal alarm clock, there to alert you to the dangers around you and keep you safe.
Let’s have a look at an example: You’re out walking your dog when you hear a loud bang behind. You jump and spin around to see what it was. It was only a car backfiring so you realise the threat has now passed and you know you’re safe. If you’d turned around to see a person with a gun, you’d naturally go into the ‘flight or fight’ mode and take measures to protect yourself and your dog. This would be a ‘normal reaction’.
Following trauma, your fear emotion can go haywire
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, you’ll know how intense your emotions become. Fear is one of these emotions. The reason for this is that your brain goes into survival mode and goes ‘offline’. Rather than storing your traumatic memory like normal, it gets stored as an isolated memory.
So when something triggers this memory, your brain can’t connect it with other ‘safe’ memories in your brain’s storage, which in turn makes the nervous system make you think you’re in danger.
So it’s quite common, post-trauma, to see a person react in an extreme manner to fear and danger
When traumatic memories become frozen, your brain can’t determine when it’s really safe. Your fear and danger emotions become coupled, and the greater the trauma, the more severe this will be.
You’re not crazy – it’s your nervous system promoting survival!
Once you understand that your reaction is beyond your control, you can take steps to ‘un-couple’ your fear and danger emotions. You can be shown how to pay attention to your body sensations, your emotions, your reactions and your surrounding environment and to notice what triggers your fears.
There is help available. If you’d like to find out more, please email me at email@example.com to set an appointment and get your life back on track.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash