Monday, June 30, 2008


Where does fear come from exactly? Is it purely an instinctual reaction or something much deeper, and is there such a thing as deeper than instinct? The fight or flight reaction is based in the instinctual part of our brain and surfaces in times of extreme stress, but does fear also reside in the same house? There seem to be so many levels that contribute to this response: the instant fear, the phobia, the I-should-really-be-afraid kind of fear.
When I began my karate journey I was afraid to perform solo in front of the class. After a while, through diligence and repetition, that fear eventually subsided. However, there's still the hint of sweaty palms, the racing heart beat every single time I get up in front of the class to perform a kata alone. Fear, in that sense, remains instinctual. I don't think about it, don't recognize that I'm afraid, yet I still feel the anxious body reaction as I stand in front of the class, ready to spring forth like a tiger.
There was also the fear surrounding sparring with another person. In our dojo the introduction to sparring for new students is with bunkai. This means one person throwing a specified strike and the other performing a specified defense technique or combination of techniques. The fight or flight response was so present when I was new to bunkai, and yet again I still feel it insinuate itself into my stomach to this very day.
Fear is a very complex emotion and to overcome that fight or flight response, the dumping of adrenaline and cortisol, is a very difficult thing to do. These days I enjoy sparring, although not the heavy kind where you need gear in order to prevent serious injury. I find that slow-flow is a much better way to hone sparring skills because you work on controlling the adrenaline dump, are actually forced to, in order to remain calm and relaxed. As soon as you stiffen up the fight or flight response has won and the energy it takes to get back to center can wear you right out.

There is also a whole other type of fear, the one related to your children. My son is an extremely active boy, climbing, running, dare deviling. With each of those actions I find my heart thumping against my chest, my palms sweating up a storm. I often have to control the impulse to go scoop him up in order to prevent him from slamming his head into the ground or falling off of a rock. There have been bruises and bumps, but that's all a part of growing up. With him there seems to be very little fight or flight involved in many of his actions.
The desire to experience far outweighs the desire to prevent injury.
He's three. Where does this begin to change?
I love the fact that he's so active and willing to explore, yet at the same time I keep finding more gray hairs underneath the red than I would like. It also takes an immense amount of energy to control the adrenaline dump when you are a parent. Perhaps this is why I have found it easier to do in karate class lately. I get plenty of practice at home.


Sara said...

Nice post. Cool blog. Fear is a troublesome thing isn't it?

Sara said...

Nice blog! Fear can be troublesome can't it?

somaserious said...

Thanks for the visit, Sara, and the compliment! When I have more time I'll head on over to you!

Steve said...

The kids ... my boys are 10 and 12 and I think the beginning to feel fear comes with self-awareness, and they both are in the beginning of their phase, i.e. the teen/puberty years! They are noticing themselves and comparing themselves to others - if only we could be kids forever in that aspect!

One area I've improved in fear is public speaking. I think I get the same "fear" I just react to it differently. Now, I feel it's more of an adrenoline rush that gets me excited. I think it's still the same feeling and chemicals rushing in my body - my brain just views it "better!"

Michele said...

Great post about fear.

I know what you mean about fear relating to children. My nine year old daughter has given me my share of gray hair. I am told it gets worse when they are teenagers.

Right now, I struggle with the fear of re-injuring my knee. It is subsiding as time goes by but it is still there.

somaserious said...

Steve - don't even get me STARTED with public speaking! That has to be one of my biggies. That's true with the kids. Puberty seems to be where they lose it all. I really wish we could stay kids...

Michele - The knee fear, that's huge. Mostly because your body stops you before you brain does.

Blackbeltmama said...

This is a great post, and one that every person with a child can really understand and well.

Miss Suzy said...

Nice post.
I believe, to some extent, our reaction to fear is trainable. Hard, though, ain't it? Steve is right on when he connected it to self-awareness.