Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear

Image of Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear
Release Date: 
April 14, 2020
The Experiment
Reviewed by: 

Amidst the current global pandemic, fear has become a persistent and familiar companion to much of the human population. The publication of Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear could be one of the most germane and significant books to help people navigate through our current dark and unfamiliar emotional and physical territory. 

With acuity of purpose, author Holland demonstrates to her audience that armed with a baseline of knowledge, fear is an emotion that can be experienced, examined, and conquered, thereby strengthening the human psyche and its ability to deal with future catastrophes.

The reader of Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear is skillfully manuevered through a panoply of visual, scientific, and emotional journeys. Holland careens from one terrifying experience to another, at times narrowly escaping with her life, yet always obviating a complete disaster.

From a paralyzing fear of her mother dying to an increasing fear of heights, Holland chronicles her harrowing experiences ranging from several horrendous car accidents in the midst of inclement weather to the actual death of her mother. After the car accidents she developed a “terror of driving.”

She describes an incident while driving slowly to a stoplight in a rainstorm. “My body produced a full-blown fear response. My heart thundered against my ribs; I breathed short and fast through a suddenly tightened chest.”

During the aftermath of her mom’s death, she believed that the sadness she was experiencing would last forever and life would never be enjoyable again. After several years of suffering, she began researching various methodologies that had been successful in treating trauma, anxiety, and phobias. Several trusted friends recommended a therapy known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a technique used effectively for these issues. 

This process treats the client in a safe environment by reconnecting the feelings and sensations associated with trauma and facilitating the natural brain functions to move toward healing.

Her therapist convinced her that “trauma can be held in the body” and that her physical reactions in the midst of the fear response were normal. And as the treatment progressed, so did her healing. Describing her life before treatment she states frankly, “I had spent so much time being afraid of . . . being afraid.”

Holland deftly communicates to the reader what it is like to experience the profound and paralyzing fear that many people experience in silence. She not only shares her first-hand emotions and physical reactions with depth and sensitivity, but she relays the science behind brain function as well.

There are myriad books that examine the emotional reactions that comprise fear without an examination of brain science that is the key to healing. The intricacies of both components and how they work in concert place Nerve: An Adventure in the Science of Fear along the top rung of the ladder of books in this category.