One of the most majestic of all creatures is the tiger. For many years these big beautiful creatures have puzzled researchers. It seems that when tigers hunt they have a remarkable capacity for causing their prey to paralyse with fear, a capacity greater than any of the other big cats. As the tiger charges toward its hapless prey it lets out a spine chilling roar. Now you’d think this would be enough to cause the prey to turn and run for its life, but instead it often freezes and soon becomes tiger food.
At the turn of this century scientists at the Fauna Communication Research Institute in North Carolina discovered why you’re likely to freeze to the spot rather than run when the tiger charges. When the tiger roars it lets out sound waves that are audible – the ones that sound terrifying – and its also lets out sound at a frequency so low you can’t hear it, but you can feel it. And so, as the tiger emerges from the undergrowth the flashing of its colours, the sound of its roar and the impact of the unheard but felt sound waves combine to provide an all out assault on your senses. The effect is that you are momentarily paralysed, so even though there may be time to avoid the tiger, you are tricked into standing still long enough for the tiger to leap on you.
Our fears often operate in the same way. They paralyse us into inactivity, even when the real threat is not immediately upon us. Part of overcoming the challenges before us is to recognise the ability for our fear of what might happen to stop us from dealing well with the challenge.