Since its roots in the primitive cave paintings, cave paintings of uncertainty are commonly known as “anxiety pockets” or “triggers.” In the thinking today, these “anxiety pockets” are places where changes and changes are interpreted and interpreted in the wrong way — creating the fearful conditions characteristic of our biological nervous system. It was the molecular mapping of a species’ nervous system that proved, back in the 1970s, that the anxiety-box system is separate from our nervous system. This system has been described as a one-way communication gate — no information can be transcribed from the input to the output and yet the input is sensed by both systems. In this sense, anxiety is at once a sensor and an amplifier. In nature, this emotion triggers body reactions that, in turn, generate fear. It’s what old-school therapy therapists refer to as “decidedly irrational responses” or “irrational reasoning.”
It’s helpful to also consider, at different stages of evolution, that these ideas originate from different sources. In “Fear Changes Us,” described in Psychology Today and described by a team of Swedish scientists in 2015, it’s found that the fear response — what is called a selective “prediction” — is the brain’s first instinct. It explains a lot about how we learned what to fear, and how fear is stored. It is increasingly accepted that, when we fear a risk, our first reaction is to take it on ourselves, to exercise control. This “thoughtful vulnerability adaptation” — to take a threat as it comes — is what Darwin believed helped the common land-dwelling hunter-gatherer survive. And, indeed, had Western hunter-gatherers been armed with weapons more than a few hundred years ago, they might have walked the same pathways across prehistoric Northern Europe they took in the 1970s.
And yet Darwin maintained that fear was unlikely to change us — if, that is, we considered, analyzed and understood that fear. More likely, a fearful reaction would be interpreted by our brain as a full-fledged fear and develop a pattern of increasingly irrational thinking to match. This is known as an increased “normalization.” The example the scientists provide is a fish that bites its own tail to block escape — not out of fear but out of necessity. As they explain, “the biological need of the fish to avoid being consumed by the venomous sting makes the sac a fantastically efficient animal self-defense system, and the fish hardly even considers passing the sting in its mouth to any other creature.” But, through the evolution of “normalization,” people are naturally affected by diseases and events: Terrorism, adultery, hurricanes, famine, natural disasters. All these events accumulate to form a pattern of irrational thinking. The novelty-seeking roles that have developed can be detected by finding a dark alley or a new toy.
Read the full article at Psychology Today.