(this is an article from the old blog)
Fear is like a key to the engine that is our survival instinct. Without it, we would never know when to run or when to fight. And we would never get hit with all those chemicals that enhance our physical and mental capabilities to survive. Two of which are dopamine and adrenaline (also known as epinephrine).
Fear is supposed to be something we would try and actively avoid. However, it seems that in its attempt to scare us off (no pun intended) it actually attracts us. Like a moth to a flame. Do to the chemicals that are released during fear. Some of us even become addicted to it. I suppose the best way to explain why that happens would be to explain what each chemical’s basic function is. Let’s start with Dopamine.
Dopamine is at its most basic a neurotransmitter. A simple messenger between neurons. However, during times of extreme stress, or times of happiness. Dopamine will act as a reward system, to reinforce a specific kind of behavior in us. It is also referred to as getting a high. You have experienced this as well. That sensation of joy or satisfaction after completing a difficult task or when something good happens to you. Dopamine is also released in times of fear. You don’t quite notice its presence until after the fear has passed, but it is there. However, while it increases our ability to process things. It is but a gateway to the stronger chemical, adrenaline.
Adrenaline as I’m sure you all know, is what fuels our bodies during the fight or flight instinct. It is like nitro being added to the fuel of a car, sending it into overdrive. This is important to survival since it allows us to move and react quicker than normal. Run faster and for longer periods, and it temporarily increases our strength. Like when a mother is rescuing her child from under a car and is able to lift the car just enough to get the child out.
Adrenaline also has a downside, or an upside depending on how you look at it. If adrenaline is still in your system when the fear has passed. Then you will probably notice your shaking, having a hard time sitting still and you’re probably thinking a mile a minute. This is called an adrenaline high, some people enjoy it while others hate it. Of course there is another downside basically everyone hates. Which is the extreme exhaustion that comes when the adrenaline leaves the body.
Now that we know the basics of both chemicals we can begin to understand why we might end up liking fear. When we experience fear and survive it. Dopamine rewards us so that when we encounter fear again, we will act in the same way. This increases our chances of survival. While Adrenaline is the chemical that actively helps us survive. Putting those two together is a powerful cocktail, which then fuels addiction if we aren’t careful.
These two chemicals alone can explain our need for fear, but there is more to this yet. The sensation of fear itself can be addicting. The fact that we are experiencing something so powerful that it temporarily forces us to put everything else in our lives on hold. But even more than that. There is the sense of adventure that we all crave in some form or another. Fear breaks up the monotony that our lives can sometimes become. So we tend to seek it out. Now there is one more thing that fear does for us that we tend to like quite a bit.
Fear also has an odd ability to bring us closer together. Short bursts of intense fear experienced with someone we care for will increase our bond with that person. Of course this is due to the dopamine in your systems and a few hormones that get released. But nevertheless this closeness is real, and has helped quite a few families along. However, we should all remember one thing if nothing else, all things in moderation. Now for my question. Do you have this need for fear? And if you do. Do you actively seek fear?