Some people have read my blog and commented how much everything revolves around fear.

Well in terms of conflict, relationship problems, etc. This is correct, because it all begins with fear.

Fear is the opposite of love.

To really understand why we must understand what fear really is.

The part of our brain for responding (or rather reacting) to fear is the amygdala. This small almond shaped group of nuclei sits right in the centre of our brain, right atop the brain stem. Just about everything, every signal, every pathway from our brain to our body and from our body to our brain, passes through the amygdala.

So just about every signal your body sends your brain and your brain sends your body has to pass through the amygdala and is examined to see if there is any danger that needs to be responded to. The amygdala, this small simple structure, is very powerful because of its position. To respond to danger, you have to be quick, even instant. The simple structure of the amygdala, wired as it is at the centre of everything, is perfectly positioned to respond to danger. Research has shown that we will respond to danger before being consciously aware of the danger.

The amygdala is the primitive brain. The wild animal still within us.

The amygdala also contains our earliest emotional memories. Not the kind of memories that we can recollect, these are deep unconscious memories because the mechanism for recollection hasn’t yet developed. The brain begins to grow when a foetus is only 3 weeks old in the mother’s womb and the amygdala and the rest of the limbic system are the first to develop. So the foetus begins to experience the world soon after that third week of development. It’s main experiences are the emotional states of its mother. After a couple more weeks it develops basic hearing, and at approximately 6 weeks it can hear sounds outside the womb.

Stress in the mother, any form of stress (stress being a reaction to fear), affects the development of the physiology of the foetus, both physically and mentally. You may have noticed that often, firstborns are smaller than their siblings, this is because the mother is likely to be more stressed during a first pregnancy, and more relaxed about being pregnant with subsequent pregnancies and more experience. Sometimes though it may work the other way round, if the mother for any reason is stressed during subsequent pregnancies.

The areas of the brain associated with higher cognitive function, will, conscience, consciousness, and emotional and impulse regulation are the last to develop. The area associated with these faculties is called the prefrontal cortex. These are highly complex structures compared to the amygdala. They work much slower than the amygdala because they require much more intercommunication between other areas of the brain. They have a much wider perception, are able to take in much more information and are able to properly evaluate responses based upon a much wider range of information than the amygdala. One particular area of the prefrontal cortex, located in the orbitofrontal cortex, called the anterior cingulate, has a direct pathways to the amygdala. It is considered that the anterior cingulate is the area of the brain responsible for regulating the drives and impulses of the primitive amygdala after higher brain functions have analysed the danger that the amygdala is responding to and judged whether its response (reaction) is appropriate.

The pathways between the anterior cingulate and the amygdala and the way the communication passes between them continues to develop right up until adulthood and beyond. The health of these pathways and their methods and tools of intercommunication are essential in the behaviour and emotional regulation that we associate with emotional maturity

The most important initial development of these pathways occurs from birth to about 3 years old and can be affected by periods of intense prolonged stress during the first 3 years of life.

A stressful experience is defined as traumatic if anything that the infant experiences is interpreted by its still primitive brain structure as a threat to its survival. Such an experience could be neglect or abandonment by the primary caregiver (the mother) because a baby’s survival is dependent upon their earliest needs being met by the mother. The infant is totally dependent upon the mother for its survival, so loss of the mother is perceived by the infant as a threat to its survival. Such an experience sets up a memory in the amygdala, a powerful unconscious memory of abandonment by someone that they depended upon for their survival. A memory that, if unaltered, follows the infant in to adolescence and adulthood.

Just about everyone, in that sense, has some experience of trauma in their development. So just about everyone you meet, are going to have unconscious fears that influence their emotions, behaviour and words, especially under duress, doubt, or fear.

Where this may become pathological, in terms of behavioural disorders, the pathways might at times of uncertainty, stress or fear, completely collapse, leaving the amygdala in the driving seat of the personality.

Think of conscious will, the driving force of personality, as a conductor in a large orchestra. When the unseen and unacknowledged fear from the amygdala takes over the job of the conductor, the orchestra and conductor fail to communicate properly, leaving a state of utter chaos within the orchestra as none of the musicians knows when to begin playing or when to stop. The same happens in the body and mind, the insides just become a mess, an internal chaos of conflicting messages.

So the amygdala is positioned in such a way that our primitive reactions to fears are at the centre of our behaviour and responses, and if not properly regulated by the pathways that directly regulate the amygdala from the anterior cingulate, the amygdala usurps the personality, leading to inner confusion and conflict of emotions, impulses and reactions. With the conscious mind trying to make sense of irrational and chaotic behaviour.

Fear is the most influential driving element in all behaviour and perhaps the only driving element, for all destructive behaviour.

One of the main reasons we don’t realise how much Fear is an influence to us, is that we have renamed it many names;

  1. Greed is a product of fear
  2. Jealousy and envy are products of fear
  3. Selfishness is a product of fear
  4. Apprehension
  5. Stress
  6. Anxiety
  7. Nervousness
  8. Shyness
  9. Prejudice
  10. Intolerance
  11. Dread
  12. Horror
  13. Terror
  14. Fright
  15. Panic
  16. Alarm
  17. Trepidation

Etc. are all just new names for Fear

The structure for Fear in the human brain, the amygdala, is at the centre of everything, the hub of our minds. So is it any wonder that Fear can have such a powerful influence over our choices and behaviour?

And when you consider that the structures and pathways for monitoring and regulating the influence the amygdala has on our perceptions and behaviour are so fragile and vulnerable to damage and dysfunction due to periods of stress as the brain is developing, is it no wonder that there is so much conflict, between nations, between religions, in our society, in relationships, etc.?