If you can control your fear, then you can control your biology

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

When people say that the difference between an elite competitor and an intermediate competitor is all mental, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing explains, that’s accurate:

Becoming a better competitor is about controlling your psychological state, which in turn alters your underlying physiology. Most simply put, if you can control your fear, then you can control your biology, too.

Yet it’s a myth that remaining calm is the answer for everyone. Only some people need to remain calm; others conquer anxiety by going to the other end of the spectrum — by being highly aroused, animated, and even angry.

A recurring note in this book is that there are two kinds of people: those who need to avoid stress to do well, and those who actually need stress to perform their best. Being told to chill out, relax, and think positively is fundamentally counterproductive for some people.

I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.


  1. Harper’s Notes says:

    “If you can control your fear, then you can control your biology,” but your biology influences whether you experience fear or anger. Seems it’s probably at least in part a testosterone thing? Also, when even just preparing to exercise testosterone levels rise as if in anticipation. So I guess what I’m saying is that it seems to me anger doesn’t suppress fear so much as it is a temperament/personality design individual-differences level developmental strategy for dealing with dangerous situations. If anything fear over rides anger, I think. It’s part of the idiocies that come down to us from Freud telling us “what you really think” that psycho-babble people like to tell angry people “you’re really just afraid.” A put-down and a mischaracterization and gosh darn that makes me mad!

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