January 30th, 2016| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Apparently 30% of American adults are apprehensive, or have been or will be at some point in their lives. And the root cause seems to be the memories they carry. An event that scared you, or scarred you, is remembered vividly and fearfully. And everyone thought that these emotional kind of memories, of panic and fear and guilt, were permanently inscribed on the papyri of our brains.

Well, there is hope on the horizon. Research from the University of Amsterdam published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that not only can certain kinds of emotional memories be altered, they can even be erased!

In a study involving 45 “spider-fearful” subjects (traumatized, I suppose, from some alarming contact with a spider at some point in their lives), one group was exposed to a tarantula in a glass jar for a couple of minutes and then given propranolol (used in patients with performance anxiety); another was shown the dangerous critter but given a placebo; the third was just given propranolol without the arachnid exposure.

The subjects’ anxiety was assessed when shown the spider the first time, then at three months after, and later after a year. The ones given the placebo or propranolol alone showed no improvement in their terror over the creepy beast. But those who were exposed to the tarantula and who also got the drug got increasingly comfortable with the insect, even holding it in their bare hands at three months (!?).

Propranolol, it appears, blocks a chemical (norepinephrine) in the brain that enhances learning, thus disrupting “reconsolidation” of memories—which is kinda like opening a file (the “fear memory”) on your computer, rewriting it with nonsense (the work of the drug), and saving it again (“reconsolidation”).

Reported that august authority, The New York Times, with much optimism:

These studies suggest that someday, a single dose of a drug, combined with exposure to your fear at the right moment, could free you of that fear forever.”

Though, of course, this is a good thing for those suffering from pathological fear, I can think of all kinds of flip sides to this therapeutic advantage.

Fear has its benefits, you know. For one, it keeps me from being stupid.

A prudent person sees evil and hides himself,
The naive proceed and pay the penalty.
Proverbs 27:12

Fear is a good thing! In fact, one reason I trusted Christ as my only God and Savior from sin was fear: fear of eternal death, forever away from the presence of God.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul;
but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Matthew 10:28

Yup, fear can be a good thing. But of all the phobias and neuroses and blue funk that we experience, the best kind of fear to have is the fear of God.

“You shall fear only the LORD your God;
and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.”
Deuteronomy 6:13

This is a reverential awe that is not at all incompatible with love of God. Indeed, a few verses before the one quoted above is this one:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Deuteronomy 6:5

A loving fear of God!

The Book of Proverbs frequently enjoins such fear of God as the mark of wisdom.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Nope, no propranolol for that, thank you!

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