Fear, like all emotions, is useful for man, in fact it warns him of the dangers he encounters. However, fear becomes a problem when it is experienced in an exaggerated way or out of context, as in the case of phobias. Fear, together with sadness, joy, disgust and anger, is one of the fundamental emotions of living beings, it warns us of dangers and pushes us to survival.
In fact, when faced with a danger, our body produces a hormone – the well-known adrenaline – which induces physical and mental changes and which prepares us for action: I flee or remain motionless (flight or fight). If we take a step back to our ancestors we can understand the adaptive value of this emotion: fear protected our ancestors from wild animals or hostile neighbors.
Today the stimuli that frighten us are no longer large lions or nearby invasions, but rather the loss of a job, a change of life or the accumulation of daily problems. However, the bodily changes, thinking and behavioral reactions remain the same as those of our ancestors.
The two main reactions to a fearful stimulus are attack or flight: the first allows us to face the obstacle, fight it; the second leads us to abandon the situation before it becomes excessively threatening for our survival. However, in literature, we find two other reactions of living beings in front of a dangerous situation: freezing and faint.
Freezing is a tonic stillness, the living being seems to be frozen, immobility that allows you not to be seen by the “predator” while evaluating which strategy (attack or flight) is the most suitable for the specific situation. When none of these strategies seems to have any chance of success, the only and extreme possible response is faint (fake death), the sudden reduction in muscle tone accompanied by a disconnection between the higher and lower centers.