By: Serena Sana
We’ve spent an entire semester discussing the things that scare us. We are scared of everything ranging from bees to ghost children. The list is endless and the only thing that they all seem to have in common is that they make us want to run far far away. For me, I am not typically fearful of something until someone has told me a story that is related or I have some kind of “experience” with the offender. We, at some point, should have learned about the fight or flight response associated with being in a bad situation. For all of this, we can thank our brain and its utterly complex response mechanisms that allow us to be scared.
The amygdala, highlighted red in the picture above, is the part of the human brain in charge of our emotional reactions. It also happens to be in charge of sending signals to the other parts of the brain and body when it senses potential danger. There are two different routes that happen simultaneously, the “low road” and the “high road”. In the first “low road” pathway, the amygdala, is what tells us to run, hide, or defend ourselves with a textbook. The other “high road” pathway acts towards figuring out if we truly need to be scared or if it was just the neighbor innocently taking out the trash. The low road takes but a few milliseconds to react whereas the high road takes a few seconds. This gap is what allows us to be scared of just about anything and, to be scared of something, our brains must have a memory (with a negative response) to recall. Eventually, the gap closes and the truth is revealed. Sometimes the low road response pathway could save your life and sometimes it can give you a mini fake heart attack.
For me, it is houses. Houses make weird sounds but until Dionaea House or Sammy’s recent blog post, I just assumed it had to do with the engineering or construction of the house. Now, because my high road response has more to think about, the gap is greater thus allowing for me to panic and remember all the terrifying things the house wants with me.
All in all, every scary blog post and every scary story we just read have given our brains more ammunition to use against us one day. While understanding how our brain works might help remain calm in some situations, I believe there is no way to ever avoid being scared once it has already happened.