We Are Born Afraid of 2 Things. Not 20. Not 5. Two.
We are born with an innate fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Everything else we fear is learned.
This is not new information. The research has been around decades.
In self-defense or martial arts training, the focus is physical fighting, skills for that which we should fear – the physical assault.
Strangers in the parking garage. Dark alleyways late at night. Serial rapists.
Ted Bundy. Samuel Little. Hauntings of unsolved murders. Amber Alerts.
Part of the traditional education paradigm in the self-defense world is reminding people, chiefly women, of the monsters that lurk in the shadows. Reminding them why they should fear and therefore, why they should take self-defense classes and enroll in martial arts programs. This education speaks to the learned fears and helps explain the opposite side of learned things – the things that are taught.
If a fear is learned then somehow it is taught. It may be taught experientially and then reinforced in the feedback. It may be taught overtly in cautionary tales and restrictions placed by caregivers and parents. It can be taught through marketing “be on your own body guard” – means you need a body guard.
I learned experientially I am not a fan of being out of control in Class ? rapids (a mix of Class 3 and Class 4s on a river). After one particularly dynamic bounce into the river from the relative safety of my 2-man kayak, a few minutes passed in which it was just me and the river … and an upcoming gorge from which there was no rescue.
A member of the guide team was finally able to get within about 20 feet of me and a plan formulated to get me back in a boat. Any boat. Knowing the options for survival were diminishing as the river washed me toward the gorge, I swam like hell toward the source of rescue.
Talk about an intense escalation of survival motivation…and now I have a distinctly marked, healthy respect for tempestuous waters and a learned fear of drowning. This was experiential learning at its finest. The physical universe was my teacher along with a guide team that didn’t realize a sudden massive snowmelt had changed the river’s status virtually overnight. I grew up in and on the water and until that trip to Northern California, I had respect for it, but I wasn’t afraid of the water. The fear of drowning wasn’t part of my mental map of the universe. After that trip? New spot on the map.
Research informs us that we have two genetically programmed fears. Research also tells us the girls are cautioned far more than boys by parents as they grow from tiny humans to full-sized versions. Thus, increasing the opportunities for learned fears to take hold. Exponentially.
Can you relate? Do you train for self-defense or are an instructor in the combat arts world? There’s a parallel to experiential learning and experimental teaching as it relates to self-defense. There is a shrouded and somewhat endemic problem with the traditional instructional approach and it finds it’s home in leveraging learned fears.
If you would like to dive a little deeper on the topic, I encourage you to do a couple of things-
- do your homework – dig around – use the internet and research this for yourself
- join the 500Rising patreon community for more conversation on this topic (there’s a bunch more to this post) and a whole lot more: https://www.patreon.com/500Rising
- use this pandemic season to explore your own beliefs about women, violence & self-defense