Everybody's afraid of something, right? Everybody, except for a woman known only as SM. She had an extremely rare condition that's destroyed the fear center in her brain ... and now she's scared of nothing.
Sounds fun, right? Researchers have been following her for more than 20 years and have tried all kinds of things with her ... watching scary movies, going to a haunted house (which she called exciting, like riding a roller coaster), and even taking her to a pet store to hold big snakes. They actually made her leave when she went to go pet a tarantula. And think about all the stuff she can do because she isn't ever scared ... skydive, climb mountains, mix stripes and patterns ...
But the fact is, our fear response is key to keeping us alive and safe.
Think about it; fear keeps you from walking into traffic or talking to sketchy strangers. SM narrowly escaped death when someone attacked her on a park bench. He'd called over to her and she just walked right to him, and didn't even flinch when he held a knife to her throat.
Think about driving, for example. If you suddenly realize you're tearing down the road, you'll instinctively slow down out of fear of an accident (or a ticket). If you had no fear, your only reaction would be "whee!" Or imagine the way a toddler will head right for the treacherous stairs, or march right up to a strange dog; it's because their fear reactions haven't fully developed yet.
In other words, fear gets a bad rap. It can hold you back when it's excessive or irrational, like with a phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder. But most of the time, being a big wussy wuss will save your life.
Image via Marco Gomes/Flickr