Well how about that, it’s already the second Tuesday of October!
That’s a very important date for the Ghost Bus.
Why? Because every second Tuesday of October is Face Your Fears Day!
Around the world, people are choosing this special day to suck it up and finally face their fears.
Although, according to the great Ralph Waldo Emerson: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life”.
But um… It’s Face Your Fears Day everybody!
But what is fear?
Well uh… really? It’s fear, that thing that you feel when you’re frightened.
Fear is largely an ‘autonomic’ response. That is to say, a response that we don’t consciously trigger.
When you perceive something that is potentially threatening such as a loud noise, your brain transmits this sudden influx of sensory data to the thalamus, which acts sort of like your brain’s switchboard.
Still not knowing whether this information is a threat or not, the thalamus sends signals to the amygdala, which has a key role in controlling your brain’s emotional reactions. The amygdala then tells your hypothalamus to tell your body to trigger the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response; the sympathetic nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, and the adrenal-cortical system releases a whole load more ultimately resulting in an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, the smooth muscles relax to allow more oxygen into the lungs, and systems like the digestive system begin to shut down to allow more energy for getting out of danger.
Well who would’ve thought it? Turns out that we in the Ghost Bus family are experts on the science of fear, much like the sinister Dr. Chapin from the classic film The Tingler.
And as a fun fact: fear-induced goosebumps are caused by the tiny muscles on the surface of your skin tightening during the fight or flight response, and dragging the hairs they are attached to with them.
So what can you be afraid of?
Almost anything, it turns out.
Certain fears are far more widespread than others, with public speaking, spiders, snakes and heights ranking among the most common.
However, some fears are a little more niche, with some less popular fears being fear of bald heads (Peladophobia), fear of the colour yellow (Xanthophobia), or our personal favourite, Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, the fear of the number ‘666’.
So why do we fear these things, especially when they pose no threat to us?
Well, there seems to be two routes (at least) that our silly old brains employ to make the unthreatening threatening.
The first way, thought to account for many of the more common fears, is that we have some sort of evolutionary genetic inheritance that gives us an aversion to certain stimuli, back when having such an aversion was actually useful.
Sure, modern household spiders in the UK are largely harmless, but venomous spiders have existed throughout history, and our ancestors must’ve benefited from having an innate dislike for them in order for this trait to have been passed down through the generations.
And that fear of heights we all seem to have to varying degrees is probably a handy thing to still have around, all things considered.
But apart from these innate fears, we humans can to learn to fear new things too, through a process of ‘Classical’ or ‘Pavlovian’ conditioning. Put simply, experiencing one stimulus and then experiencing a second, somehow painful stimulus will train us to associate (and therefore, to fear) the initial experience with the second.
This isn’t always helpful. In some ways, it’s great to be able to identify new threats that our instincts haven’t predisposed us to dislike, but we’re not always great at identifying cause and effect. Often, we develop aversions to things that were only coincidentally present when we first experienced a trauma, and aren’t actually related to the painful thing at all.
Isn’t ‘facing your fear’ a little bit simplistic?
In some ways, yes. For deep-seated, traumatic phobias it can take more than simply puffing out your chest and being a big brave boy (or girl) to stop the fear from negatively impacting your life.
It certainly didn’t seem to do this poor lady any favours.
However, a very significant part of the therapeutic practice of treating phobias is ‘exposure therapy’, which is essentially exposing the sufferer to the subject of their phobia in a safe context to allow them to address their immediate reaction.
So there you have it. Facing your fear, it’s legit.
And if you haven’t taken a trip on the Ghost Bus already, then where better to start looking fear in the eye than on a possibly possessed Routemaster bus as it tours around the sites of history’s greatest moments of terror?
And when better than on this special, fear-facing day that you can totally google because we didn’t make it up?
You know it makes sense. Book now.