1.1 Let's Understanding Fear and Exactly How It Works

The chemical components of fear amount to a chain reaction in the brain that begins with a traumatic stimulus that causes the discharge of powerful chemicals. These chemicals then cause your heart to race, the hairs on the back of your neck to rise, rapid breathing and a tensing of the muscles.

In that moment, you’re either consciously or unconsciously deciding, fight or flight. Do you stay and face the danger or run? What you decide depends on how dangerous the threat is and how you’ve been trained to deal with it.

A mouse running across the kitchen floor may cause you to automatically leap up onto a chair whereas the fear of speaking to a large audience of people may cause you to think through the fear and perform.

Fear usually causes the automatic response. Billions of brain cells take over to process the information available through your sensory perception and trigger a response. Now, research scientists know that certain parts of the brain are the culprits to triggering responses to fear.

These special, sensory areas of the brain are:

  • Thalamus

    Determines where sensory data that’s gathered from parts of the body (such as the eyes, ears, skin and mouth) is sent. The thalamus is in charge of audio and visual signals, motor control and sleep and wakened states and sends those stimuli to the cerebral cortex.
  • Hippocampus

    This area of the brain is part of the limbic system that mainly controls your memories and emotional make up that could cause disorientation. It consists of mirror image halves on the right and left areas of the brain. Studies indicate that the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to appear damaged in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Hyprothalamus

    An extremely important part of the brain that initiates automatic responses such as “fight or flight.” It’s small – about the size of an almond – and controls the nervous system. It also controls hunger, thirst, sleep and body temperature.
  • Sensory Cortex

    Serves as an interpreter for the sensory data that the brain collects from all parts of the body. No area of the body is immune to the receptors of the sensory cortex. This intricate system picks up reception from the skin, skeletal muscles, bones, joints, organs and cardiovascular system.

As you can see, you can’t avoid the brain’s sensory receptors which collect the data that can create fear unless one or more parts of the body are damaged. Even then, other receptors in other parts of the body become more acute to make up for the damaged area.

For example, a person who is blind may develop excellent audio receptors that surpass what sighted humans can hear. All of these physical reactions to outside stimulus alerts the brain to danger and creates a “fight or flight” fear response.