Fear is an unpleasant, but necessary emotion, caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, and is a threat.
Then what makes us afraid, speaking in front of a friendly audience in a well-lit room?
Think about that moment when your heart is having an out of body experience. It is racing and pounding. Your sweat glands are in overdrive. Your stomach is in a knot.
No, you are not in the wilderness, facing a vicious animal, you are in front of a friendly group of people.
As a kid, barely four feet tall, I was so afraid to go to our backyard at night. It was pitch black. Believe me, I tried. At every attempt, I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety of lurking ghosts and monsters that would harm me. I would rush back to the house faster than a blink of an eye.
However, during the daytime, I was the king of that backyard. I had a ton of fun and created many memories.
So, what does it say about fear? Fear of the unknown, the unreal.
The Fear is designated as an emotional reaction to a perceived threat. Meaning, the threat could be either real or imaginary.
Let’s take a quick look at the physiology of this phenomenon. It happens in two stages.
1. Hormonal 2. Reactional
Part 1: Hormonal:
There is a region in the frontal lobe of the brain called the Hypothalamus – which coordinates the autonomic nervous system. This system regulates body processes without a conscious effort. It is responsible for involuntary body processes, such as the blood flow, the heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion.
When the Hypothalamus gets triggered, it forces the Pituitary gland to secrete a hormone called a stress hormone. The stress hormone gets into your bloodstream and hits the adrenalin glands, faster than a snap, which in turn injects adrenalin into the bloodstream.
Simply, these triggers that cause hormone secretions are based on our past experiences. Technically you may say, “I’m paranoid all the time”, consciously or subconsciously. This is a quite fascinating concept.
We need to understand the reason the Hypothalamus acts in such a way, is to protect us. The stress it creates is solely meant as an alert against threats (allege or real) from predators and other aggressors.
Think about this; when we are under assault, either we need to fight or run faster than a speeding bullet.
Part 2: Reactions:
That is physiology.
Now the question is if you in front of a group of friendly people, where is this threat of predators and other aggressors coming from? What experience Hypothalamus is referring to? As a kid why was I scared of a threat (ghosts) that I had never encountered?
The Paranoia of Hypothalamus is not just based on experiences of yesterday, or even, 25, 35 years ago…but the experiences that have been accumulated over the 3-million-year span.
Hypothalamus has been evolving with you, since the Genus Homo branched, 2.8 million years ago in South Africa. Evolution took us from Homo Habilis to Homo Rudolfensis to Homo Erectus and here we are as Homo Sapiens.
In that journey of evolution, we were exposed to all sorts of danger. Those experiences are well recorded. You may even say the experiences are tattooed in the Hypothalamus. These experiences serve us meaningfully to survive. The adage of survival of the fittest or be extinct.
It is no wonder that we are paranoid at a whimper. It is also fortunate that the paranoia has become an alert system to protect us from even a mere thought.
Darwin said, “My will and reason were powerless against the imagination of a danger which had never been experienced.”
It is a brilliant statement. There is no way you can’t get rid of or erase this fear from the Hypothalamus.
OK. Let’s circle back to the original question.
What scares us, on broad daylight, in a well-lighted room, in front of a friendly group of people?
What incites our fear of public speaking? Here the truth. None of us are afraid of public speaking. What a relief, right?
This fear (of the audience) sprouts from the feeling that the speaker’s self-image is about to get hurt. We are scared because we are self-conscious.
Our Hypothalamus is that sensitive and protective of ourselves. Hypothalamus is hell bound on protecting this selfie. It is the ultimate secret service agent.
That’s the answer. Let’s elaborate on it.
Where does Self- Consciousness come from?
We think like this because we are judgmental. We like to judge people. We categorize people. We compartmentalize people. Now, when we get the opportunity to stand in front of a group of people (the tables have turned) …the fear of humiliation scares the bejesus out of us. Our thoughts have become our own enemy, the ghost, the predator, the aggressor… News Flash! We are our own enemy!
How do we win this battle?
There are many types of fears. In this speech, the focus is on how to overcome the fear of self-consciousness in speaking in public. One thing we know for certain is that we can’t erase the Hypothalamus. Then the question is, how do we trick the Hypothalamus to think there is nothing to be afraid of?
Those two will help you to trick your Hypothalamus.
Hypothalamus has stored in millions of years of experience. So the only way to defeat is to trick it.
Now you know - why. Now you know - how.