- John Chunny Baker
A little on fear
Today, let's talk about fears.
In this post, we will do over a general overview of fear, highlight how fear can affect us, some strategies to help overcome fear (particularly in the context of parkour.)
Fear is common to us all; we all have various fears that can affect us in a whole spectrum of reactions. Many of us see fear through a negative lens, or as something that we should try to avoid. We shouldn't seek to avoid fear, but rather embrace it, and use fear to seek improvement
Fear is an experience that we share with many beings. In nature, fear is a survival mechanism. In humans, it can be much more complex. Fear can be caused by life-threatening situations, or by situations where we are at the edge of our comfort zone. Experiences of fear can be amplified by self-doubt, imagination or even social and cultural influences. As we have evolved, fear has been useful to keep us alive. Today that same primal system remains with us in our modern lives, as sometimes limits us in our actions or ambitions.
Events that trigger fear enter through various sensory systems into the brain, and this information is then split into two paths. One feeds into consciousness, where we can observe and remember it. The other flows through the subconscious or into automatic responses.
We can see an example of this automatic response during a stack or bail in parkour, or any situation where a person falls, slips or screws up a movement. Through reflex, the person can adapt while falling to save themselves from becoming seriously injured. “I did it without thinking.”
It takes an estimated half a second for awareness of an outside event to enter the conscious mind.
According to neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux, the part of the brain dealing with fear (the pathways of the amygdala) can receive sensory signals from the eyes and ears in just twelve-thousandths of a second.
When in fear, the brain releases a bunch of chemicals, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are types of adrenaline. These chemicals, along with other body responses, make the mind alert and active, when attention is essential.
This focus is essential for training, and reducing risk of injury. If you are more focused on what you are doing, then more attention is being paid to the fine details of the movement.
Have you ever been in a situation (while training or otherwise) where you were scared but did the movement or action anyway? Unless you are super new to parkour/ life, you have likely been in this situation. Think back on that moment. I would take a guess that leading up to doing it, you were very focused.
Now, let's look at the other end of the spectrum. If a person is too relaxed, or has too little fear, this can lead to a lack of focus and increased risk of injuries. Fear can help give us focus and concentration.
The experience of time seeming to slow down time is one the most striking effects of fear, and one very commonly reported from people who experience mild to severe fear. Any parkour practitioner can relate to this feeling: when attempting something that is causing fear, time can sometimes appear to slow right down. What is actually happening is, due to the adrenaline and other chemicals coursing through the body, the brain creates a more detailed memory of the event, meaning reaction times are quicker and (again) focus is heightened.
Fear is with us always, in training and in everyday life. We are all afraid of things; some we are not even consciously aware of. Being completely without fear is not realistic, or even desirable, given the uses and benefits. Being aware of your fears, and how they affect you, is important to the pro