The author Joseph LeDoux is the world’s leading expert on fear and anxiety. This book is a follow up to his earlier book The Emotional Brain.
In this book he critiques much of the historical work on fear (e.g. the role of the amygdala and the relationship between the physiological threat response and the feeling of fear) and provides a new view of fear and anxiety. In particular, he explains that the conscious feelings of fear and anxiety arise from circuits in the brain that differ from the circuits that control the threat response behaviours such as fight, flight or freezing. While these circuits interact, they are not the same thing. This is important when considering treatment, as there are different approaches for affecting how people consciously feel compared with physiological responses and how they behave.
The book includes a critique of various historical approaches to emotions, and a thorough explanation of recent theories. The middle of the book contains lots of neuroscience, and while it is explained in an accessible way, I found much of it was too in depth for my needs. The last few chapters about therapeutic approaches to managing anxiety were also beyond my professional scope – I don’t provide therapy as part of my practice. However, the first half of the book was really useful in better understanding anxiety and fear, and how they relate to the threat response. I also found the content about the relationships between memory, fear and anxiety fascinating.
A random fun fact I discovered from the book – LeDoux has a band called The Amygdaloids, and they have an album called Theory of My Mind! I haven’t listened to it yet, but there’s a link in the book where you can access it!