Your Body Knows About Your Fear Before You Do

“Does the brain control you or are you controlling the brain? I don’t know if I’m in charge of mine.”

-Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais Podcast, Series 2 Episode 6

Some years ago I read about a study done in the 70’s on the Misattribution of Arousal. Psychological researchers had two groups of men walk across a bridge and meet an attractive female researcher who would give them a questionnaire, and her personal phone number, saying that if they had any questions later, to give her a call (bow chicka wow wow). What’s the catch? The first group’s bridge looked something like this:

And the second group got to walk across this bridge:

The experimenters found that those that had to meet the researcher on the high, shaky bridge, were much more likely to call later that night. Why? Well, when you have to cross a suspension bridge up 250 feet high, your body experiences certain physiological responses. Your heart may race, you may breath faster, sweat a little more, pupils dilate, certain muscles tense up, while others relax…

I think I felt my heart skip a beat
I’m standing here and I can hardly breathe – you got me
You got me.
The way you take my hand is just so sweet
And that crooked smile of yours it knocks me off my feet

From “You Got Me” music and lyrics by John Shanks, Colbie Caillat

The way our body responds to fear is pretty much the same as the way it responds to seeing the next Mr./Mrs. Blog-reader. From this I draw two conclusions.

Conclusion 1: Infatuation is a Sham

Too often women (and, to a lesser degree, men) allow their rationality and self esteem to be duped by their baser instincts. He hasn’t called! Why isn’t he calling? … She said she needs to talk; she isn’t leaving, is she? I need her! … Did he just say he prefers natural girls? But he knows I wear weave – is he leaving me?! So we get scared and we get anxious and we mistake our fear and anxiety for feelings of attraction. This is something game-players know and love to exploit. I’ve fallen victim to it countless times. But being able to acknowledge this is the first step.

Your infatuation is nothing but fear.

No one you should want to put your trust in should be okay with making you feeling anxious or inadequate.

Conclusion 2: The Body Often Affects the Mind

What the experiment also suggests is that the brain has no idea what it’s doing, like, ever. Another experiment I read about said that just the act of smiling puts you in a better mood. Place a pencil between your teeth to force yourself to smile, and it works just the same.

People with anxiety, or even people who are just easily affected by hormonal or chemical changes in the body already know this fact. When I drink more caffeine than I’m used to I get nervous and start to think something awful is coming (but it’s only because my heart is racing, my hands are jittery, and my stomach is nauseous). On my previous birth control pills, I’d be ready to break necks if I missed a day and had to take two pills in one day (or, gasp, three!!!).

This is poignant to me today because this morning I woke up feeling like this would not be a good day. I didn’t feel rested, despite the fact that I got 10 hours. This led to me feeling sluggish, which led to me feeling dizzy, which led to me feeling unmotivated. At some point I stopped to try and understand why I might be feeling this way. There was no logical explanation. For some reason or another, my body did not want to cooperate with me. But my physical feelings don’t have the last say in my mood unless I allow them too. I decided to take back control. I made all of my thoughts positive and poo-pooed any negative that crept up. I paid attention to my posture, even though my body felt like slouching. I made this a good day, and while I didn’t get everything that I wanted to get done, done, I did enough and set enough plans into action, that I can be proud of this day! Yay me!

EDIT: By the way, about the title – there is a commercial that’s been airing on television for months now for First Response pregnancy tests. I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT! A line from it goes: “Your body can tell you’re pregnant before you can.” What the hell does that mean? Am I not attached to my body in this scenario? What if my body decided never to “tell” me? What would clue me in to the fact that I am, indeed, pregnant? Is that why TLC can make an entire show called I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant? Rant rant rant…

3 thoughts on “Your Body Knows About Your Fear Before You Do

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