Why does fear paralyze us?


is an emotion that arises in the face of a perception of danger. It is mainly related to two types of responses: attack or flight. Both are adaptive and tremendously useful, as they alert us when a danger threatens us. However, there is a third response, which is less well known, but which also occurs in the face of this emotion, and that is

the paralysis

. Many animals, in the presence of imminent danger, choose to stay still or pretend to be dead.

Although among us it is more difficult to find this answer in the face of

It also occurs, especially in stimuli related to damage or blood. It is relatively common to encounter people who suffer from vasovagal syncope when they have a blood test or go to the dentist and even if they ’t

They do suffer from dizziness in this kind of situation.

Fear in today’s society

In today’s society, we do not usually face dangers of the magnitude of those of thousands of years ago. However, our brains are the same at the biological level as the brains of our predecessors, so the reactions are the same as they were in the past. That is, , to escape imminent danger, it was adaptive for our heart to race, our muscles to tense, and our breathing to speed . In this way, we prepared ourselves physiologically to escape.

At the present time, these physiological responses to

In addition, they may become unadaptive to stimuli as having to stay at work long or giving a talk in public.

How fear and anxiety influence performance?

A fair amount of

The new “Green” technology helps us to remain alert and optimize the mobilization of our resources to meet the demands of the environment more effectively. What happens is that if this emotion is too intense, the execution of the task is less effective. The same happens if our activation is too low.

Imagine that you are proposed to give a

. A little anxiety will do you good to be attentive to the questions and think about the answers quickly. But if the anxious response is too intense, you’re likely to focus too much attention on the possible threats. You may feel palpitations, sweating, muscle tension, and shortness of breath. You may even begin to get negative cognitive assessments of the situation. It is relatively common for thoughts to appear such as “I’m sure I’m boring the audience,” “I’m sure they’ll notice my hand is shaking,” or “They’re going to me something I don’t . This causes the intensity of the anxiety to grow until we try to escape the situation.

The opposite can also happen to us, imagine that you are very used to giving talks in public and this particular one seems especially boring to you. Probably, because you are not very active, you have prepared the talk with less impetus, you mobilize fewer resources to meet the demands of the talk, and you may not be as bright as if you were a little nervous.

Strategies to prevent fear and anxiety from paralyzing us

This emotion, like all , consists of three response systems.
The cognitive (what we think), the physiological (what we feel) and the behavioural (what we do)

and there’s a strategy for each of the response systems.

At the cognitive level, we can make use of re-evaluation.

In general, the first cognitive evaluation we make of a stimulus is automatic, and it is the one that triggers the

. But we can modify this evaluation by resorting to certain questions such as: What is the worst thing that can happen? If the worst thing happened, would it really be so bad? What are the probabilities that this will happen? If I ran, would I have the resources to face the situation? Generally, after asking ourselves these questions, we usually that the stimulus that is making us feel anxious is not so bad.

2. On a physiological level, we have the relaxation techniques.

These procedures help us to lower the intensity of our physical responses. There are several types, but in general, it is usually enough to control our breathing. A good way to do this is to spend twice as much time breathing out as breathing in. In this way we will hyperventilation, which is usually the cause of our physiological symptoms going off.

3. At the behavioral level,

the best strategy we have is exposure to fear-generating stimuli. As long as these stimuli do not pose a real danger to us. There are different ways to do this, but you can make a hierarchy of situations that generate anxiety or fear and order it from less to more. Start facing the situations that generate less fear and you will see how little by little you will gain confidence to do it with more difficult situations. You don’t have to do it all at once, you can substitute avoidance behaviours for approaching behaviours. For example, if you give

Instead of avoiding the center of attention in your group of friends, we can choose to try telling a joke or a story. Reward yourself for little effort, never for the result.

To think…

– Fear and anxiety are adaptive emotions

that help us survive on certain occasions.

– The brain is very conservative

and they go off at we don’t need them.

– The brain is capable of learning and changing its response

in the face of certain stimuli. Therefore, if we use these techniques, little by little we will manage to make our fear and our anxiety play in our favor and stop blocking us.

Jesus Matos.

Psychologist expert in sadness management. Founder of the online platform

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