Posts Tagged Amygdala
It is a single moment in time that all too often changes the world. It can be quiet or cataclysmic, profound or mundane, but our reaction to it determines our direction and builds a pathway into our future.That pathway may be completely separate from the actual event but will trace back to it somehow even though we may not know how. The event itself is less important but our reaction to it is key to our behavior and future self so responding in the best way seems obvious but is much harder than it seems. Frequently we choose to follow instinct rather than use instinct as the tool it was intended to be. One of the most common instincts is fear.
The Limbic System in the brain contains the Amygdala. This area acts like a filter for the stimuli that comes in and funnels the information to the appropriate bodily areas for response through aggression or fear. Anthropologists feel fear is the oldest emotional response that goes back to the evolutionary stages of man. Although the Neuroscience and Anthropology is interesting, the conclusions are a bit of a stretch and more importantly the learned behavioral actions of the process pay a much larger role. Two people can respond to the same stimuli differently. The patterns of behavior suggest that the how of fear is less important than the why. Some people fear heights and others do not, some fears snakes and others do not. The stimuli of the height or the snake are the same for both but the circumstances surrounding the why are different. Fear is the reaction to the stimuli due to the learned behavior of the past circumstances. It is not a genetic trait but moreover a physical tool.
Fear is the catalyst for revolution in the moment of revelation. It is the cosmic “Oh Crud” factor. It is a biochemical response to external stimuli. We let it become a motivating factor in our decisions rather than use it to create better decision making. We fear the unseen rather than seeing what we should fear and avoiding it. We let it control us rather than using it as a tool to control our circumstances.
Fear comes in all flavors but for conversation purposes can be broken down into a simple causal factor. Freud noticed the first instance of fear a person has is separation from their mother. I think he began to go pretty south after that point but realistically started with a key idea. Fear begins with the recognition of separation from something we want. The idea is simple, we understand loss and it sucks so we want to limit it as much as possible. The reaction to anticipated loss is fear. This manifests itself in all forms of loss. Whether it is loss of items, health, relationships, life, status, etc., the reaction to this anticipated loss is fear. In reality, if we had no concerns or problems with loss, we would never fear.
The problem is no matter who we are, we will at some point in time, and some place experience loss. We cannot avoid it. Expecting that we accept the loss without regret or problem is unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. The real challenge is managing the tolerance for loss. How much do we fear things that really should be no concern and no long term value? If I am walking across the street and a bus comes at me at full speed, the anticipate loss of health and or life should cause me to get out of the street and protect myself. However if the news tells me that a major earthquake is anticipated in the future but that could mean days, weeks, years, decades, or centuries away, should that really cause fear? The anticipation of loss should be negligible and not something I need to plan for. The specifics of circumstances are less relevant than the perspective. Are we really willing to allow the anticipation of possibilities to control our actions.
The fear itself should be healthy and protective but the reaction to it can be and usually is unhealthy and in some cases can be deadly. The irony is that the reaction to fear can cause worse problems than the loss or separation that is feared. If a person overeats or smokes due to anxiety and fear, the physical problems will be much worse than anything they fear. In order to be healthy, we need to control the response to the stimuli causing the fear.
What is the value of protecting a dollar and losing a thousand? What is the value of protecting a moment in a relationship but losing the relationship? How can we get to the place where fear is managed like the tool it is? Simple really, we need to stop worrying about the loss and accept it as part of life. This includes appreciating the things we have while we have them. The list of items we own is worthless if we do not have time to appreciate them. The amount of money in the bank is worthless if all it does is make money for the bank. The number of friends we have is meaningless if the relationships are founded on shallow purposes. The need to accumulate spawns the need to protect and the desire to fear.
If we control our expectations by appreciating what we have while we have it then losing it will only be a step in a new direction. Fearing the loss will be meaningless if the loss is understood as part of the journey and the lack of fear will give us the ability to appreciate it all the more. The apparent circuity makes far more sense than we want it to. The only thing it depends on is our willingness to let go.