Autism and Fearlessness

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Autistic people are the only ones on the planet who are incapable of experiencing fear. If you meet someone who has never felt any kind of fear in his entire life, that person is most assuredly autistic. The amygdala (fear center) of every autistic brain is inactive.

Alex Honnold, the expert free solo climber in the attached photo, has never felt fear. His amygdala has been documented to be inactive. Alex’s father had Asperger syndrome (high functioning autism). It appears that Alex does also.

Alex occasionally intellectualizes about fear, saying that he thought about a particular challenge and figured it could be pretty scary. But thinking and figuring out what fear could mean is not the same as actually feeling fear.

RL Poole has this to say about his autistic fearlessness: ” I do not have an involuntary fear response.  It is a cold calculation of risk, with mitigating factors included, and then the formation of an immediate plan of action. Physical confrontation is of no emotional consequence to me, other than a mildly heightened state of awareness during the event.  Later, I will feel what others would call a sense of exhilaration at the prospect of what has taken place, but only in the past tense.  This gives me, and again, a person like Sherlock Holmes the desire to confront situations in real time without hesitation or delay, when an unaffected person may balk out of fear, politeness, shock, or even simply not knowing what to do.”

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