Letter: We humans are a fearful bunch

Humans need to start using a bit more of the organ that gave us an evolutionary advantage

To the Expositor:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A famous quote, and yet one that we have forgotten in current distractions. It dawned on me the other day, after having a conversation with a family member who was terrified about a milk snake that was sighted in her neck of the woods, that we humans are a fearful bunch. 

We are afraid of so many things and the majority of the fears are not even threats to us bi-peds who have the advantage and often, upper hand, on this planet. We are afraid of snakes, mice, bats, spiders, worms, germs, the dark…the list goes on and on. Living in fear, especially chronic, is unhealthy for our bodies, both mental and physical. Physically, it suppresses our immune systems as it ramps up our endocrine system to produce adrenaline and steroids, which can be immunosuppressive. It alters our sleep patterns; it suppresses our digestive patterns and can often cause ulcers; it puts stress on our cardiovascular system—all in all, further weakening our health. 

Mentally, it decreases our joy in life and limits our capacity to think rationally. As a good friend described it: fear is part of our ancient, primordial brain and when it takes over, the higher, thinking brain is suppressed. I am not saying that humans should throw caution to the wind, however. Indeed, fear has given every species the survival instincts to keep safe from true dangers. But as in life, it is important to keep a balance—the yin/yang principle—or even the Goldilocks principle. Not too much fear, not too little. 

Humans need to start using a bit more the organ that did give us the evolutionary advantage—our brain—and critically and logically assess the perceived threats and whether or not we are equipped physically or mentally to handle it (and I gently suggest that in the majority of the cases, we are). I am reminded of Buffalo Springfield’s song ‘For What It’s Worth:’ “Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep, it starts when you always afraid…” 

Janice Mitchell