Why do we fear Sharks but not Cars?

Posted on 28th September 2015 | Category: CBT, Useful Tools

A wise man once said that everything we want is on the other side of fear. All too often in life people are ruled by their insecurities. However, sometimes it’s the imaginary fears of things that are incredibly unlikely to happen to us that rule our decisions rather than a realistic relationship with our environment.

This article in the popular psychological press looks at why we are more likely to be concerned with shark attacks, even on beaches where sharks are not known to pose any discernible hazard rather than car crashes, which are a much more likely eventuality given how much we drive around on the roads.

One of the reasons why we are more afraid of sharks is because of the evolutionary component. As an organism we have grown up through the generations to have an in-built feeling of fear over the unpredictability of nature. For instance, many psychologists argue that one of the reasons why we find spiders frightening is that they can move in a completely random direction without warning after long periods of standstill.

It is also necessary to look at the part Hollywood plays in the fear of sharks and the mass consciousness of the western world. Sharks have been enshrined as attack animals on the pages of the Peter Bletchley novel and the reels of the Jaws film by Steven Spielberg. The film had such an effect on audiences that many people to this day are still chilled by simply thinking about it.

When cars first appeared people were equally terrified of cars and their fast movement and unpredictability. People were so flustered by their mechanical operation that in some places a man would walk in front of them with a flag to warn people of their coming. However these days cars are part of an established transport infrastructure that is covered by legislation and even allows us to walk incredibly closely to cars.

As a result we are now heavily invested in the belief that cars are predictable and that our road laws will work to keep their movement under control. Quite often we even start to believe we are untouchable in our little car shaped bubbles with music, sat navs and hands free kits. We almost feel like we are on rails.

Hence we can often over estimate our personal security due to exposure and normalisation and we under estimate the level of environmental risks of traffic hazards. This also applies to road rage. How many people would act so aggressively towards other people if they were not in the enclosed space of a car? Equally people can often confuse their own personal power with that of a car. For instance drivers of high performance sports cars may think they have the same skills as Lewis Hamilton simply because they are in a fast vehicle.

If you would like to explore the various ways in which fear could be holding you back then CBT, ACT and mindfulness can help you explore your feelings and responses to any given situation. To find out more about these technique please call.