When Does Fear Get Wired Into Us?

Fear is a big part of my life.

It comes in different shades but it is always there. The ruler of my amygdala, right in the front of my brain, like a ‘broken’ beacon that guides my path forward.

You see, fear in itself is not a bad guy. It is a deeply wired reaction, evolved over millennia to protect us from perceived threat. It would have made me an awesome tribe woman back in the cave days. This sensitive, light sleeper would have protected so many and got rewarded for it - with mating partners and food. (Not much has changed in terms of my favourite rewards actually, hmmmm)

Today, my hyper-aware amygdala is not as popular or useful. It is the creator of anxiety and unsettledness. That weird feeling I get out of nowhere either in the middle of the night, when I wake up, when I experience even the smallest changes, when I need to communicate negative feelings, when I enter a relationship, when I exit one, when I start a new project, when I get on a plane etc, etc; the list is so long.

Bottom line, my brain has been wired by history AND by my upbringing to overreact to threat.

Why do I say my upbringing too? Well, because before the age of 4 (yes, 4!), we have already interpreted the stimuli and world around us and decided how life is going to be for us. This blows my little anxious mind. It is a theory, by psychiatrist Eric Berne (Read his book ‘The Games People Play') who concluded the information we receive from our parents or significant adults as young children shapes and moulds our brain patterns.

Now this is where it gets interesting. And slightly anger-fuelling. Don’t worry, I had years of therapy to help me let go of the resentment I felt towards what my mother passed on to me.

When I was a toddler, before the age of 4!, my mum used to place me and my brother on a blanket in the kitchen, to play, while she cooked and cleaned. She told us constantly NOT to cross the blanket line, or we would get punished. And that’s how it all began.

A highly sensitive and perceptive child, I took her command as the truth. I never crossed the line. And I continued living and building my life between safety lines. Ah, I am so glad this statement doesn’t make me sob uncontrollably anymore. That is the sign of a healed emotion :) Thank you therapy and myself.

Funnily enough, letting go of such a silly thing - your mum telling you to stay on a cozy blanket playing - took me years. 26, to be more precise. Even to this day I still feel the need to ask my mum for permission with major decisions in my life.

It’s like every time I have to assess a major direction shift, I can see that line, my mum’s angry face and feel like if I get off the comfort blanket, I’ll literally die. Wow! It is incredible how strong these connections we made as children interfere with our ability to function as an independent, rational adult.

My brain is literally in a major fight between old wiring and new intentions. Exhausting, frustrating, but rewarding when I see progress. When it gets easier to dare, to experiment, to try new things.

I don’t hate my mum. She did what any good mum would do - tried to protect me. She didn't know she was setting me up to be a fearful bag of cats. Her and I have a great relationship today.

It is down to me now to undo. To re-parent myself. To tell myself it is OK to step outside the safety lines.

So here I am, friends, in my 30s, so aware of why my whole body and brain says NO to risk and opportunity, yet teaching it new ways. Compassionately and slowly showing myself that there is life, wellbeing and peace outside my comfort zone.

When did your fear begin? How can you expand your lines? When do you want to start?

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