Monday, December 04, 2006

Constant excitement or fear are not natural

Fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment.
- Russ Quaglia, US professor of education

Ah, yes, attitude adjustments. We all need some. Our lives would be much better if we had different attitudes toward many of the things we consider make our lives bad.

However, this quip was intended to make a point about fear. To understand fear as a mirror of excitement, we need to understand what both mean.

Fear and excitement are emotions. Not natural ones. At least they are not natural on a constant or long term basis.

Fear is an extension of the natural emotion called apprehension, which produces the fight or flight response to dangerous situations. We need apprehension (or caution, if you will) to protect ourselves from risks that we need not take or that might impose themselves on us. When a mean, barking dog threatens to attack us, apprehension advises us to make tracks away from it. When we see that the boss is in a bad mood, we find other places to be than around him if we can.

In fearful situations, our adrenal glands pump epinephrine (Adrenaline) through our bloodstream so we can act quickly. Running epinephrine through our bloodstream constantly has a similar effect to running jet fuel through our car engine constantly.

Excitement is an extension of the natural emotion of joy or happiness. We can be safely happy for days at a time. However, it's not safe to experience excitement constantly because it compromises our immune system by flushing dopamine through our brain (thus damaging our brain's ability to act in a reasonable fashion) and ultimately harming our immune system when our brain fails to tell it to react to attacks.

To experience excitement constantly would be to take an illegal drug, for example. Drug addicts want to stay high because they feel the need to experience the excitement as much as possible. Constant excitement is a choice.

No one is born with fear. We learn it. Sometimes, such as developing a fear of heights or cramped places, fear just happens to us. Other times fear is imposed on us. Someone who works 80-hour weeks in fear of losing his job, for example, is succumbing to a threatening situation imposed by someone else. The fear of an absive spouse cripples some people emotionally, even shortens the lives of some.

We have choices about what excitements we accept for ourselves. We also have choices about what situations we accept as fearful.

It would servce us well to consider carefully our association with anyone who wants us to experience constant excitement or constant fear. They will do us no good. They do not have our best interests at heart.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the difference.
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