by Brittany Parks
Do you have a worst fear? Are you afraid of falling from high places, for example? What if someone told you that you could learn to overcome your worst fear? Well, science supports the idea that you can. One way to combat your biggest fear is to face it.
A UCLA study shows that the more frequently one faces a fearful situation, the sooner they can learn to overcome it. The researchers exposed mice to a white noise that was followed by a shock; therefore, the white noise became the “conditioned stimulus” that the mice learned to fear on its own because they learned to anticipate the pain of the shock. By exposing the rats to the white noise, without the shock, for long periods of time and little time between each exposure, the rats learned to overcome the fear of the white noise all together. Thus, proving that the more you face your fear the sooner you will learn to overcome it.
Learning to overcome your fear can also produce other benefits. By learning to overcome fear in one situation, you will have less anxiety when put any other dangerous situations. Researchers Kendal and Pollak also studied mice to support the theory of “learned safety,” the conditioned inhibition of fear. In their studies, the scientists conditioned two groups of rats. The first was the “fear conditioned” group which received a shock every time they heard a certain tone. The second was the “safety conditioned” group who did not receive a shock every time they heard the tone; thus, they learned not to fear the tone. When each group was placed in a pool of water with no escape, the “safety conditioned” group experienced less anxiety when facing the fearful situation. Learning to feel safety in a situation that may have seemed harmful can lead one to feel less stress when facing other experiences that may cause one to normally experience the feeling of fright.
Although each of these studies observes the fear patterns of mice, not humans, and although mice face different fear filled experiences than humans, mice react to fear filled situations in a similar manner as humans. This is because the brains of mice and humans both contain the same memory functions that can aid in “conditioning” of a fear to remember the fear or, in this case, to get rid of it. So, are you afraid of falling from high places? I advise a trip to the nearest them park for a thrill packed experience on the tallest Ferris wheel, and I advise you to ride it as many times as you can. And after triumphing over your fear of heights, why not head over to the clowns. I’m sure this fear will not seem so bad after all after scaling a hundred feet in a little fenced basket.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2008, October 9). Learning How Not To Be Afraid. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 9, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008150445.htm
American Psychological Association (2003, October 6). Scientist Find More Efficient Way To ‘Unlearn’ Fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 10, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031006064929.htm