It’s all in the brain
The famous “fight or flight” response is instinctive and it determines a human’s course of action when faced with a threat — fighting it or escaping it. Contrary to what you might think, this response is not only triggered by fear or negative emotions. Excitement and happiness can stimulate the brain in just the same way. So, why do we respond to fear and a surge of joy differently if the brain process is the same?
The amygdala is the area of our brain that processes fear and the different levels of it. Once we encounter something scary, the amygdala alerts the body of the threat, and the body is then flooded with hormones to prepare itself to fight or flee: our pupils dilate, our heart rate picks up, and our digestive system slows down.
The next step
The next stage of our brain’s process of fear is in the hippocampus. After the amygdala saw something that made the body aware of a possible threat, the hippocampus takes charge. The hippocampus breaks down the threat into its different components and determines if the fight or flight reaction is even necessary. For example, if the threat trigger is the creepy-looking shadow our laundry makes on the wall, our hippocampus will tell us there’s nothing to worry about. However, if the creepy looking shadow is shaped like a human and appears to be following us down a dark street, our hippocampus will let us know it’s time to scadaddle.