Fear. A reaction to be processed by a brain region known as the amygdala. Usually we think of monsters under the bed, but to be honest, you can be truly afraid of anything in your life. Some people’s fears can consist of anything from rodents to people who look different, act different, or have different views. These fears can vary from small stereotypes that we just have to learn to break, to discriminating against people who have different beliefs than you.
Some people’s fears are not really theirs. It is scientifically proven that we have an “innate capacity for fear,” (Scientific American). Fear is passed down through generations, “The estimate of genetic contributions to a specific phobia range roughly from 25-65%” This demonstrates how the world that our children are being raised in impacts their view on society. For example, if we raise our children in a world that is homophobic, they often grow up with a closed mind on that topic with a preconception that it is wrong to be gay or wrong to “come out.”
\We need to be better about raising our children in a community that is open and nurturing for the benefit of society. While we may not possess the gene for fear, passing it through generations, the manner we raise our children and the views we impart should be positive with the hope it will result in the same.
We respond to fear with our past, our experiences influence our fears. If we could just reduce our fears by associating positive experiences with things that we fear, we could easily overcome them. This process is known as “Fear Extinction.” (Scientific American) If it is as easy for us to rid ourselves of the fear as it is to become fearful, then why are we so inclined to take the easy route, which is to contain the fear, which is proven to worsen things. One of the biggest problems is that we shut out our fears and differences instead of talking about them.
For us to fully understand how easy it is for fear to become discrimination, we may find, unfortunately, Xenophobia. Perhaps today’s biggest discrimination problem. Most people think that xenophobia is only a fear of foreigners, but in reality, it is a general fear of strangers including their politics and cultures, which usually should be perceived as a wonderful and beneficial thing to society.
“Xenophobia is simply the result of poor upbringing or alienation from people and cultures different than one’s own. Xenophobia is used interchangeably with racism, but racism and xenophobia are two very different things” (All About Counseling). Xenophobia is a fear, and racism is a type of discrimination. While we do not opine that xenophobia lacks discrimination, it is a fear, unlike racism. People with xenophobia neither understand nor accept that their condition is based in fear, yet it is “the perceived threat of losing one’s own identity, culture and imagined superiority or purity that initially spurs the disorder” (Scientific American).
Our fears are what shape us; certainly they take from our daily life, certainly they also enhance it by allowing us to conquer our fears and share our struggles with others to teach them to overcome their phobias. Fear makes us stronger. When we begin to fear things, we must consider whether our fears result in discrimination against others or whether they provide introspection to ourselves.