The Power Of Fear: How Facing Your Fears Inspires Courage And Kindness
The Fear Factor: How to Turn Fear into Something Good explores how fear can be used in positive ways.
With scientific studies as her guiding force, the author delves deep into exploring how certain behaviors are related to fear, and how this emotion can fuel selfless actions.
She reveals how those who experience intense levels of fear are actually more likely to display acts of heroism towards others.
She also takes a look at psychopaths, the parental instinct and examines which countries around the world are particularly generous when it comes to giving aid.
At its core, The Fear Factor is an inspiring read that shows us that no matter what our fears may be, we can still use them in constructive ways.
By doing this we make ourselves better people while also making a difference in the lives of those around us.
Empathy Can Be Manipulated And Is Strongly Related To The Ability To Recognize Fear In Others
According to a research conducted by the author in The Fear Factor Book, there’s a strong link between empathy and the ability to recognize fear in others.
To prove this point, the author ran an experiment involving volunteers who were asked to listen to an interview of a woman named Katie.
The participants were divided into two groups, one which was asked to focus on the technical details of her story and one which was asked to focus on and identify the emotions Katie was expressing.
The results showed that those who had been asked to pay attention to her feelings donated more than those who focused on technical details.
This suggested that people with better empathy can also recognize fear more accurately when seeing it on someone else’s face.
Moreover, during the study, it was discovered that those same participants who were better at recognizing fearful expressions were also the ones who donated more money towards Katie in need – proving that they are indeed more compassionate as well.
The Amygdala: How Deficiencies In This Brain Region Can Lead To A Lacking Ability To Experience Fear, And Thus A Reduction In Empathy
Psychopaths often have a dysfunctional amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stimulating the fear response.
This means that they cannot experience or understand fear in the same way as others do.
Physiologically, the functioning amygdala increases heart rate and blood pressure as well as oozing adrenaline into our bloodstream in response to fearful stimuli.
It is also intertwined with our emotional responses and leads to feelings of anxiety and hyper-awareness.
However, a psychopath’s amygdala fails to respond to threats they may be exposed to, meaning they can’t experience what those around them feel in worrisome situations.
Robert Hare’s interviews further bolster this argument that a lack of fear is more than just an assumed characteristic of psychopathy- a defective amygdala prevents them from truly understanding fear at all.
By being physically unable to respond to fearful stimuli, psychopaths are also deprived of any moral implications associated with threatening people with violence or other harmful behaviours, further highlighting the significance of an impaired amygdala in those suffering from psychopathy.
Altruists Possess A Special Ability To Recognize And Respond To Fear In Others
Altruists, or those that are willing to undertake a selfless deed for a stranger in need, have been found to display unique behaviors when it comes to the activity of their amygdalas.
In 2010, 205 people agreed to anonymously donate one of their organs to a stranger in need and were recruited by the author into her study.
Upon being shown various images displaying facial expressions, it was revealed that the amygdalas of these altruists recorded higher activity compared to those of control subjects when presented with an image of a fearful expression.
However, it wasn’t conclusive on what was causing such high amygdala responses.
The author then introduced images of angry faces, which resulted in the opposite trend- this time the control participants’ amygdalas registering more activity than those of the altruists when presented with them.
This ruled out anxiety as a potential cause for the heightened amygdala response that had been observed in altruist participants when they were presented with fearful expressions.
This gives evidence that altruists experience something different from anxious people and possess a special awareness towards fear in others as they are better at recognizing faces showing fear as well.
Altruists Are Fearful, But Brave Enough To Override Their Anxiety And Help Others
Contrary to popular belief, altruists are not fearless people.
In reality, they are just as likely to feel fear like regular people.
The difference lies in their ability to recognize it and push past it for the benefit of others.
Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark is a great example of this type of brave altruism.
He famously rescued his neighbor from a burning house in 2012 despite being terrified during the whole ordeal.
The same can be said for kidney donors who participated in the author’s study.
Though they weren’t fearless either, they would often override their fearfulness to help those in need.
They might be anxious when getting on a plane or running out of gas while driving, but they still choose to give their time and energy to save another person’s life without hesitation.
Furthermore, recent studies suggest that it’s not because altruists are brave that they perform heroic feats, but because deep down they are scared too and know how important it is for them to act fast in order to aid someone else’s survival Despite feeling scared and overwhelmed many participants were also oddly excited about participating in the surgery — so it could be argued that adrenaline can paradoxically both fuel and stunt courage.
Altruists may experience fear just the same as anyone else; however, this typically doesn’t stop them from helping those who need assistance even in life-threatening situations.
Oxytocin: The Hormone That Makes Us Brave Enough To Be Selfless And Altruistic
It seems that parental instincts and altruistic actions may both have the same origin: the hormone oxytocin.
Studies conducted by one of the authors show that when a person is exposed to oxytocin, they respond more positively to images of babies, while remaining cautious around strangers who might present a danger.
This hormone is also known to stimulate the inclination of protecting a child.
To further prove this hypothesis, a group of rats were given oxytocin and then put into a high-risk environment – instead of freezing or running away, these rodents remained surprisingly calm, which led researchers to believe that undoubtedlty oxytocin plays an important role in allowing people to perform heroic and selfless acts in perilous situations.
In conclusion, the evidence about oxytocin leads us to the assumption that parental instincts and altruistic actions may both stem from this hormone.
How Books Can Trigger Empathy, Ultimately Reducing Violence
Literacy could be an invaluable tool in helping to increase empathy around the world, which may in turn lead to a reduction of violence as well.
Studies have long suggested that literacy plays an important role in improving empathy towards others, and it’s no wonder that Myanmar – the country ranked first on the World Giving Index – also enjoys a literacy rate of over 90 percent.
This link between charity and literacy has been further enhanced by research conducted by psychologist Daniel Batson.
The experiment gave participants a note outlining the emotions of someone who had recently gone through a break-up and then asked them to play a game with the subject.
Those who had read the note were 28 percent more likely to cooperate than those who hadn’t.
This is evidence that reading the note had engendered empathy within these people, rather than leading to antagonism, and illustrates just how influential literacy can be when it comes to fostering understanding between individuals from disparate backgrounds.
Steven Pinker takes this argument even further in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature and contends that literacy can possibly even help reduce global violence if it is encouraged where there has traditionally been conflict.
If our goal is for more tolerant societies, then we should take steps to ensure greater accessibility of education for all citizens so that all may come together in greater understanding and peace, regardless of race or culture.
Developing Altruism Through Compassion Meditation
The Buddhist practice of compassion meditation is a great way to foster altruism.
The aim, when beginning this practice, is to cultivate kindness towards oneself and others.
To start, you need to be comfortable in your chair or cushion and focus on seemingly effortless breathing.
Establishing the intention for kindness towards oneself and others is key in this exercise.
Think about love for an important person in your life, such as a family member, child or romantic partner.
Visualize extending this same love and care to acquaintances, colleagues and even enemies, who should not be forgotten either!
Over time, meditation can have transformative effects which may result with one having genuinely compassionate feelings towards strangers they deem unworthy of it normally.
Practicing this type of meditation will lead to acting more altruistically and helping others – both known and unknown – whenever it’s possible!
The Fear Factor by author Julian Barbour offers readers a deeper understanding and appreciation of fear, its role in our lives, and how it can open us up to new opportunities.
Through his exploration of the neurological processes that control the fear response, Barbour shows readers that fear can be harnessed to create feelings of empathy and altruism, rather than completely shutting it out.
Throughout The Fear Factor, the book provides meditative exercises and other self-improvement strategies for enhancing compassion and kindness.
Ultimately, Barbour’s book emphasizes that fear does not have to render people helplessly paralyzed or lead them down a path of aggression; rather, it can be channeled into nuanced forms of courage and selflessness when properly understood.