Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Feeling exposed

19 August 2015


Recently I felt nervous as I was about to meet someone whom I hadn’t seen for a year. The last time we had seen each other before, was when she had collected her stuff from my house. That day had been stressful. The recent meeting went bad. Also see my August 10 blog. Afterwards, I wondered where my nervousness or anxiety had come from. Intuition? Subconscious? Conscious?

Nervousness, stress, anxiety — the feelings all seem to arise together in some fashion. And it’s no accident. Thousands of years ago, when food was consumed after having just killed it, a fight or flight response was boilerplate to humans’ survival. Over time, we phased ourselves out of the food web, but the hardwired response stayed. Now, when we have a big first date or a speech to give, our brains foolishly think our lives are in real danger. (MedicalDaily)

Despite popular belief, nervous sensations are actually quite useful. They date back thousands of years ago to a time when most of what humans didn’t know, didn’t understand or couldn’t predict could literally get them killed. If early humans were fearless enough to walk onto an unfamiliar grassy prairie, for instance, they ended up becoming dinner for a wild animal that was lurking in that grass. If they were fearless enough to eat a lot of an unfamiliar food, they poisoned themselves or got sick. (HuffPost)

So humans and other animals developed a built-in fear of the unknown. In a dangerous, uncertain world, it was quite helpful for early humans to be able to react to danger quickly and effectively. This fear response was wired into the nervous system. It is designed to give you a great deal of strength, smarts, and speed when you are under attack. When early humans were confronted by dangerous wild animals, for instance, their fear response helped them to run and hide. It also helped them to find the strength needed to club an animal over the head. (HuffPost)

Hence, evolutionary scientists claim that it is a left over from our distant past and that is doesn’t serve a purpose anymore. Yet, scientists that study human behaviour still think it has a purpose. I agree with latter view. I feel that being nervous still has an important purpose unless it turns into fear.

After some soul searching, I conclude that the feeling of nervousness, stress or anxiety is related to a feeling of ‘exposing’ ourselves (e.g., an audience, a date, an embarrassment, a situation). The level of exposing only went from physical to social. Nevertheless, exposing yourself may still bring hurt and pain onto yourself. In that context nothing has changed compared to thousands of years ago.

Exposing ourselves makes us vulnerable and may bring us hurt and pain – or joy. To cope with the related nervousness / anxiety / stress, we have been given some great evolutionary tools: increased energy and strength, sharper vision and hearing, more endurance, and less pain. These tolls stem from our brain that turns on our sympathetic nervous system. This triggers the release of (anti) stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. (HuffPost)

Nearly each day I’m exposing myself in this blog (e.g., beliefs, emotions, opinions, views). Rarely I’m nervous before, during or after writing. But perhaps I’m lying to myself.

“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” Mark Twain


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