Fear and the Brain

Brad M. Griffin | Dec 14, 2010

What makes the hair on the back of your neck jump in fright?

When we want to feel really smart here at Fuller, we spend time over on the campus of the OTHER prestigious Pasadena school, Caltech (that was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Theyre really super-smart over there).

Recently some neurologists at Caltech learned something new about fear. Apparently our brains ride a seesaw of fear. The stimuli that trigger fear in our brains cause a gush of fear response in our amygdalas and then throughout our bodies, resembling what would happen if one end of a seesaw was sitting on a water hose and the other end was suddenly lifted. Sit with that image for a minute.

I think its fascinating that were learning more about how our brains respond to fear. And that one stimuli (whatever that may bemost of us have a long list of them) can trigger such intense reactions. We fear a lot as youth workers, as parents, as folks who in theory live without anything to fear. Im interested in where this kind of research may leadlike toward new understandings for how to help us manage our fears so they do not overcome usbut Im more interested in how we can draw on the resources of the perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18) as we live with our seesawing brains from day to day.

So what are you afraid of?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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