Working with Fear

The image displays the words “Without Stress Tips” in white against a blue background along a gold lotus blossom.

Fear is often a by-product of negative thoughts. Unfortunately, we have an innate capacity for fear.

In 1919 psychologist John B. Watson conducted a controversial experiment to see whether fear could be learned.

A young boy he named “Little Albert” was shown different creatures, including a rat. At first, Albert showed no fear of the rat.

Then Watson paired the exposure with a harsh sound that scared the little boy. Soon, Little Albert would react with fear at just the sight of the rat alone.

In essence, this was an example of classic conditioning. We are all familiar with the example of Ivan Pavlov and his experiments of feeding a dog while ringing a bell. Soon Pavlov just rang the bell and the dog salivated.

Watson extended experimenting with Little Albert, and soon the young boy feared other furry creatures.

Fear is complex. The emotion is processed by the amygdala deep within the brain. A person with a damaged amygdala doesn’t feel fear like the rest of us.

Fear can be reduced by associating positive experiences or illusions with a fear. In psychological terms, this is referred to as “fear extinction” and is prompted by a conditioned reflex, similar to how the original fear was created.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to face your fears; learn to expunge them.