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The definitive host: You have nothing to fear ...

The definitive host

de·fin·i·tive host (duh-fin'eh-tiv) n. 1) An organism where a parasite undergoes the adult and sexual stages of its reproductive cycle 2) Someone you go to for interesting stories and/or facts, and puts on one hell of a dinner party 3) This blog, devoted to science and other geeky subjects

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You have nothing to fear ...

I was almost done this post yesterday, but my browser crashed, and for some reason, it did not save. SO, I had to start the entire post again from scratch.
Two weeks ago, I saw the re-booted Nightmare on Elm Street movie that was just released, and while it was not a bad movie, it was not good either. They tried to emulate the original, which was the one thing I had hoped that they would not do.

However, when I left the movie, I began to think about just how powerful fear is. After all, we have all been frozen by fear at some point in our lives. You may put on a brave face, you may try to hide it ... but it's true.

But, what exactly is fear? Why is it so important? And why do people love being scared so much?

To find out, I spoke to Andrea Letamendi, a psychologist who specializes in treating patients with anxiety, phobic and traumatic disorders.

Letamendi says that fear is an important biological response, as it primes the body against a perceived threat in order to survive. "We rely on the experience of fear as an indicator," she says. "It's a sign that we need to flee or fight."

The fight or flight response is a mechanism that allows us to quickly metabolize a great deal of energy to step back and flee, or step forward and fight. This is shown by an increased heart rate, tunnel vision, increased blood flow to the large muscles, and the release of a chemical known as epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline.

The brain interprets any and all threats in a similar way, whether it is a relatively benign perceived threat (such as public speaking) or an extremely dangerous one (like a hungry cougar about to pounce).

This cartoon, aside from its terrible animation, gives a pretty good explanation about the fight or flight response.

Click Here

However, fear is only useful when the proper responses are activated and you learn from the experience. According to Letamendi, "anxiety and phobic disorders are a result of poor interpretations of the physical fear response - a dysfunction in perception of fear."

Letamendi also says that the reason why scary movies and haunted houses are so popular, is because the individuals who enjoy them realize that it is in a controlled environment, and that they are safe. But, it must be noted that not everyone responds to fearful stimuli in the same way.

"Not everyone gets pleasure out of feeling fear," says Letamendi.
"Not everyone likes getting scared."

But, fear is a powerful emotion. It can make the most banal activity to you seem an insurmountable obstacle to others.

Even Letamendi admits she is terrified of Freddy Kruger and will never see those movies, despite all her knowledge and training.

But the real question is: do we truly have nothing to fear, but fear itself?

Sleep tight.

The definitive host

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