A mix of autobiography and research comprises this exploration of what we fear and how we fear it.
Journalist and photographer Yogis (Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea, 2009) shares an anecdote about his childhood, telling how he loved doing math as a child until a failed test somehow instilled a "fear memory" so deep inside him that he has avoided math as much as possible ever since. Understanding fear—how the split-second instinctual reaction trumps cognitively understanding the risks involved and how to ameliorate the fear afterward—led Yogis to embark on what he refers to as "an obsession" with exploring a subject not often discussed. This obsession led him to experience firsthand some common fear-inducing situations, as well as personal fear-trigger circumstances, to take a closer look at his responses and learn more about universal responses. Yogis relates scientific research as naturally as a conversation with a friend—often, the book reads as though it was transcribed rather than written. The author fluidly links discussions of frontal lobes, the modern adaptations of fight or flight and negativity bias with his own experiences—e.g., his foray into some of the most dangerous surfing conditions in the world. Yogis pulls these unusually fear-inducing situations in some surprising directions.
Not all of the adventures lead to insights for readers, but most will enjoy the trip nonetheless.