Do you sometimes say things you later regret?
Do you act rashly and without thinking?
Or perhaps your hidden consciousness once made a decision that saved someone’s life?
We live in a big rush. Everything has to be done within a certain time and under a lot of pressure. Some of us have a higher level of life tension, while others have a lower one. This depends on several factors including social standing, responsibility, or the role we give to our responsibilities. Regardless, everyone happens to be under stress.
To be able to understand the fear and the rest of our emotions, we need knowledge. We should know where our emotions come from and why we happen to act quickly, intuitively, or even unconsciously.
The previously described fear as a factor of discomfort and insufficient knowledge is just our subjective approach to imaging this emotion. It is worth emphasizing that fear acts largely as mobilization to protect oneself against a threat. It is a reaction automatically fixed in our nervous system. The same as fear triggered by caution, which can determine at least our survival.
All our emotions induce us to react in different ways, which scientists have discovered by looking deep into our bodies, or more precisely our brains:
In a moment of nervousness, blood flows into our hands, making it easier for us to defend ourselves – to strike strong blows against the enemy. Our heart starts beating faster, so the secretion of the hormone adrenaline is increased. It is this that causes a surge of energy to take impulsive action.
During fear, blood rushes to the large skeletal muscles, such as the leg muscles. This is why it is much easier for us to move to escape.
Love, passion, and sexual satisfaction cause stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. The pattern of its stimulation is also referred to as the relaxation response. It lowers our heart rate and causes a general calming of our body.
Raising our eyebrows allows us to see more of the foreground and the additional light input to the retina informs us of more visual events. We can realize more quickly what is happening and develop a plan of action.
Excessive emotion causes us to act first and think later.
“A man is sitting in a cafe by the pool. Suddenly he notices that a little girl is drowning. Without thinking, he jumps into the water in his clothes to save the child. He gets out with the little girl in his arms and gets an incredible amount of gratitude and thanks from her parents, who did not notice the accident. The man is not fully aware of what has happened. His reaction was automatic. By the time he thought about it, he was already in the water fishing out the drowning child. It is only after time that he can consciously understand that he has saved the life of another human being.”
Why does this happen?
When our rationality is drowned out by emotions, a key role is played by our organ in the brain, the amygdala. Its job is to analyze all the information reaching the brain and pick up on those that indicate danger. If the amygdala receives a signal of potential danger, it immediately informs the entire brain of the state of emergency, known as the fear or flight response.
The visual signal is transmitted from the retina to the thalamus. It is there that it is translated into brain language.
Then a much larger part of the information travels to the visual cortex, but one should not forget the small part that directly enters the amygdala.
It is this part that allows a fast, intuitive, although less precise reaction. We can therefore conclude that the amygdala in our brain triggers an emotional response before the cortical centers understand what is happening.
This is why we happen to perform certain actions or say words without thinking, which we may later regret.
On the other hand, some unconscious acts can save our lives, as well as the lives of others, through our quick and unconscious reactions.
This is precisely what happened in the case of this man. The amygdala body was informed of the danger faster than the visual cortex. His admirable act was the body’s automatic reaction to seeing another man’s life threatened, which of course does not undermine the heroism.
Our nervous system is the most amazing part of our body. It is a kind of software for our behavior and thinking. Pay attention to how we can help ourselves to make the right decision. We often say that we were guided by our hearts. We should change the last part by stating that we were guided by our brains.
All this happens on impulse because these are the situations we are talking about. Emergencies. Emotional, automatic reactions to a specific stimulus over which we have no control.
Sometimes we regret them.
Sometimes we are proud of them.
Sometimes we are indifferent to them.
The most important thing is to know where they come from and to be aware of them. They are what make us special and unique.
They are the ones that control our vision of the world.
They are the ones responsible for the decisions we make, both conscious and unconscious.
They are an indispensable part of our brains. They are what make us alive.
Goleman D. Emotional intelligence. 2005: 41- 62.
Kalat W. J. Biological foundations of psychology. Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN. Warsaw: 85-90.