“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” This quote from Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince during the cave scene is striking. It talks about the nature of fear and why things are to be feared. But lets go more in depth about this subject, as well all are familiar with this feeling. Similarly another thing that is related to fear is anxiety, and these two feelings are actually very closely related and correspond, but why? And more importantly what causes fear and anxiety? In the good spirit of Halloween let’s talk about these feelings of fright and jitters in all different ways.
To start off, lets talk about how those two feelings correspond. Well you can blame all your troubles on a region in your brain known as the amygdala . This is known as the “fear center” since it is in charge of fear, memory, and emotions. It corresponds with your body by heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, and in that same region stress and anxiety is associated. If you think about it, when you experience fear and anxiety, many similar reactions in your body occur: trembling, increased heart rate,sweating, and most importantly adrenaline. Adrenaline is released in your body because it prepares you for a “fight of flight” situation. You become more keen, more oxygen is added to your lungs, and more blood in the muscles. You’ll need all of this in any fearful and anxious situations after all.
Now lets talk about what exactly is fear and anxiety. First off, when we see something scary, our brains have difficulty comprehending what that dangerous thing is and what we are seeing. This uncertainty, this unknown of how dangerous something is what we come to know as fear. Similarly, there are creepy things. We have what we know, and what we don’t know as two separate things, while creepy things are in the middle of the two. So we know what they are, but there is something of it that is bit off that gives uncertainty. This may seem even scarier, since that valley between what is know to be dangerous and what is unknown to be dangerous almost come together. For example, in a movie, you see a dark distant figure in the shape of a man hovering with a hood and sends a deadly chill up you spine (aka Dementors). You know it’s some sort of creature that looks like a man, but the other factors make it something that is unknown at the same time. So it looks like Dumbledore was right after all, the unknown is all we fear.
Now as for anxiety, our control of worrying is normal since it’s a kind of warning for your brain to focus on problems. We need it, since we wouldn’t bother paying your bills, studying for our exams, or solve any problem without worrying a little bit. We all feel anxious from time to time, but it’s a real problem when it interferes with regular life. There is now way we can turn “off” anxiety and so from all the studying and all the work, we still feel the lasting effects. Avoiding situations that make us feel anxious do make us feel better short term, but it just makes things harder to face later on. It will spread to other situations, and we’ll tend to avoid more things. To help control anxiety, keep an eye on deadlines from school or work and use time management. Remain calm and also study in a spread out amount over a couple of days, so things aren’t so stressful on the last day. For example, my English teacher told our class that we had a big test in TWO days on a novel we were reading in class. This dropped a bomb in practically everyone’s week as it was surprising, and of course gave everyone anxiety (myself included). To help study for the test, I tried to keep things calm, and was prepared before hand with notes while I was reading so I didn’t have to cram on the last two days. This helped me in the long run; not having to rush everything and having an early general outline.
So as you see, fear and anxiety can come up in our lives on many different levels. Learning to overcome our fears, anxiety, and pressure can be difficult, but once achieved you’ll feel golden. Taking control and conquering what ever comes in our way is also a positive way to grow as a person, don’t let those giant spiders or boggarts control you life, you can do anything! Everything that happens in your brain is a result of the outside world, but just remember…
“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”