Just imagine if we did not feel or react to fear, we would not survive for very long as we would be placing ourselves in danger every day. Why we need fear for self defence. The main purpose is to ensure our survival, through fear. The fear mechanism is in humans and animals, it is said the only fear we are born with is a fear of falling and a fear of the dark the rest we have learned. Through evolution of the human and animal species by being aware of dangers that have been passed down through our genes, so the statement we are only born with a fear of falling and darkness is not true, we are already hard wired with a set of fears. Joanna Bourke a professor wrote A Cultural History frames fear with this story. Why do we “pull a face” in the face of fear – contort our facial muscles into an expression that conveys terror?
In the 19th-century brawl over evolution, this face of fear became a debating point. Since the physical expression of panic appears the same in every culture and place, some argued a divine cause – God had given people a way to convey their most extreme feelings, whatever the barriers of language.
Charles Darwin was not convinced. Such grimaces, he suggested, were involuntary and accidental. Evolution had provided facial muscles to control speaking, shade our eyes, chew food. When we experienced fear our muscles tightened to take flight, and we assumed – without meaning to – an expression that signaled dread.
If we know pulling a face serves no real purpose, can we control our fearful reaction? Darwin decided to test this by visiting the reptile house at the London Zoological Gardens. Standing behind thick glass, protected from harm, could Darwin keep a straight face as a puff adder lunged.
As Darwin said in his diaries, the answer was an emphatic no. Though he tried hard to remain calm, fear proved instinctual. Each time the snake rushed towards the glass Darwin found himself leaping a yard or two backwards with astonishing rapidity. My will and reason were powerless against the imagination of a danger which had never been experienced.
Darwin concluded that our fear reflexes are guided by ancient circuits deep in the human brain. The face of fear is a by-product of our “fight or flight” reflex. That everyone behaves in similar fashion shows only that we share a common evolutionary heritage.
Fear is a reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus such as someone with a knife or a gun; this coincides with the release of chemicals that cause an elevated heart rate, fast shallow breathing and energized muscles, most of the fear process is an automatic response where we do not consciously think about it, also known as the fight-or-flight response.