Hopefully, we’ve established a couple of principles recently:
1. That your amygdala needs to observe you acting in a non-threatened way in situations you previously thought were threatening before it will start to ‘dim’ its response and cease activating its ‘fight/flight/ alarms and
2. That the more personal values and goals you enshrine in your consciousness, the easier it becomes to act in such a non-threatened way. In effect, you begin to behave as though your life was centred in the Calmer or Manifesting Zones rather than rooted in panic and anxiety.
The combination of asserting personal values over the top of alarm signals from your amygdala leads to your amygdala backing off more promptly and permanently.
To give your cold list of ‘values’ more of an emotional ‘kick’, try using inspiring words and vocabulary. There’s a reason why certain words have more effect on us: our mind/brains are designed to ignore things they consider mundane and commonplace. You want words that evoke and trigger emotional responses, phrases that will be more meaningful and memorable. Your value statements need to be rich and full of significance for you so they inspire you to uphold them and act upon them.
For example, I always wanted to return to my childhood home in Yorkshire, after being compelled to migrate as a child to Australia. I could simply have written ‘Return to England’ on a piece of paper — but this would have read as soulless and unmotivating. As it happened, I didn’t write it down at all: I just emblazoned somewhere in my consciousness that ‘I was going back to my childhood roots and the land of my forefathers’ and associated the concept with all kinds of emotional shading and colour. And here I am — it took a while and there were many byways and barriers thrown up by amygdalic factors along the way, but I made it and now live happily a few hundred yards away from my childhood home.
Once you’ve completed your list of core values, leave them alone for a while; revisit them a couple of days later.
How do they make you feel? Do you get an emotional rush from them?
Are they personal and consistent?
Are you echoing someone else’s values or are these truly your own?
Make any tweaks and changes as necessary.
Living Your Values
If you’ve been able to reduce your values down to a powerful list of five or so items, draw up a little chart and calculate how well you are living those values today, this week, across the boards.
Score yourself out of 10 on each one. You might find this tricky — that doesn’t matter, it’s only an approximation and isn’t a scientific test.
But here’s the thing: your score will also indicate a rough reflection of amygdalic power in each department you’ve listed.
Foe example, let’s say you have a value of ‘I want to be super-effective and respected in my work environment’. You’ve probably got it worded differently, but let’s say you’ve given yourself 4 out of 10 in terms of the way you actually behave at work —in other words, you don’t feel especially effective or respected at work.
What’s stopping you?
The balance of ‘6’ may be an indication of the amygdala’s influence over your behaviour at work, or at least of the way in which cognitive distortions are holding you back. Perhaps you’re making decisions or acting in such a way that leads you to be more withdrawn or more of a victim of someone else’s actions than you should be.
Define your goals. Create a plan. Look over your personal values again. Act on your values in the face of amygdalic fears and you will feel a difference in your level of fulfilment at work.
Projecting a Future
Imagine what would happen in your life if you began acting on your personal values.
Would you have a new business? A changed relationship? Better security at home? A more satisfying spiritual life?
Visualise this future picture as much as you can. Have it come alive in your mind. ‘Rehearse’ it over and over again in your head.
This isn’t idle fantasising: your amygdala is listening. And though it won’t change its propensity to trigger alarms until it sees you acting on these visualisations, it will begin to scent a change. When you do act decisively and create a new memory for it to compute with, it won’t be quite as surprised and will be a little bit readier to acquiesce to the quieter mental/emotional life you’re aiming for.