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.