Overcoming the Amygdala Part 105
If your life is full of departures, then the heart of the question is ‘Departures from what?’
One of the key things that has to be understood to change one’s thinking from irrational, amygdala-driven patterns towards rational sanity and freedom from the amygdala is this notion of the ideal.
Here’s the thing:
Ideals are highly subjective.
What might be an ideal for you might not be an ideal for someone else. The horse you bet on winning a race is an ideal for you, but not for the guy who bet on the other horse. The destruction of a coronavirus is an ideal for humanity, but not for the coronavirus. Taking this to a much larger scale, you can see it playing out on the world stage: America’s collapse might be an ideal for Soviet Russia; Soviet Russia’s collapse might be the ideal for America.
Ideals can therefore be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on one’s viewpoint.
They can also be nuanced and varied enough, being subjective things, that someone trying to evaluate the situation gets confused. Take the example of a marriage: what exactly is the ideal scene for that? The answer is ‘It depends on what a particular couple want’. One marriage might have an ideal of ‘Being able to freely travel the world together on a perpetual honeymoon, experiencing as much joy as we can over the next ten years’; another couple might have their ideal as ‘A full and thriving family brought up in a static, supportive environment’. Totally different ideals — but neither of them is ‘wrong’ and both of them fit their own circumstances.
One thing that some people struggle with when trying to think correctly is this idea that an ideal must be some kind of glowing, completely independent and objective external ‘thing’, against which we are all measured. It’s easy to fall into that way of thinking, but what’s actually happening is that, instead of actively using our own intellects and analytical power to guide ourselves day by day through whatever Life presents us with, heading towards sanity, we are abnegating that power and settling for a fixed idea instead.
You can see this happen with a certain kind of ‘religious’ person — rather than think for themselves on a moment-by-moment highly sane level, moving closer to a personal vision of Paradise the more they correctly analyse what’s going on around them, they abandon all effort to think entirely and instead fall back on a fixed set of standards which inevitably don’t hold up in every given situation. So you get some degree of insanity creeping in.
The same thing happens in politics: one set of ideals is held up as the ‘gold standard’ against which everything must be measured, which results in arbitrary and awkwardly fitting ‘solutions’ which don’t solve every situation to which they are applied.
Human beings can be fundamentally lazy. Thinking correctly and sanely requires that one stay ‘on the ball’ at all times and applies analysis to any situation where there appears to be a problem. Applied correctly, that analysis will result in the clouds opening, the birds singing, smiles everywhere and a general improvement towards an ideal. But it takes work. Meanwhile, fixed ideas seem to offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution which requires almost zero analysis or effort.
It’s a case of buying into the ‘off the shelf’ solution which claims to solve things (but doesn't), rather than creating powerful and real solutions independently every time a problem comes up — you can understand why the off the shelf option sells so well to many human minds. But, because that easy option doesn’t fit every given situation, you are left with gaps, misfits, worsening scenes, disasters — and the amygdala steps in as a last resort.
Most of the underlying anxiety in society today — and probably most of your own personal underlying anxiety — stems from a failure to correctly analyse.
And that often comes down to a failure to ascertain or project the correct ideal for any given set of circumstances.
And that comes down to misunderstanding how deceptively easy it is to assign an ideal.
Ideals clarify for everyone where any given set of circumstances is going.
So, faced with any set of environmental factors, the question to ask is ‘Where should this be heading?’
Take personal health: where do you want your health to be, realistically speaking, over a realistic time period? Plot that out — and then, projecting it onto the existing picture of your health, you can immediately see, like an x-ray, where the departures from that ideal are.
Take a marriage: what would you like from the marriage, taking into account some realism and a reasonable period of time? Beam that out onto your existing scene and you will instantly see the ‘shadows’, the departures, which indicate where work is needed.
Take a career or business: what’s a reasonable set of expectations over a realistic time period? Write it all down and it will at once throw up departures.
But don’t then take your health, marriage or career/business departures and start reacting to them. That would trap you in a ‘departure/react/cope’ pattern from which it might be difficult to escape. Instead use the pattern of departures to help you find the Big Departure and its underlying reason.
Health-wise, for instance: you outline an ideal, and that shows you certain specific areas which are departures from that ideal. Monitoring your health over a period of time, you begin to see that most of those departures stem from upper body problems; further analysis shows that they are mostly connected to a particular muscle group. Digging in a bit deeper, you discover that a very specific action or inaction on your part is worsening the performance of this muscle group every day. You’ve found your real reason — change that action or inaction and you’ll immediately notice a widespread improvement. Adopt a programme designed to address that particular muscle group and your symptoms will start to disappear. Keep that programme going and you will look back and realise that your ideal health has been approached.
Marriage-wise: sit down with your partner and determine an agreed ideal — or, if things have degenerated to a point where that isn’t likely to happen, carefully work out an ideal that might appeal to both you and the other person. Looking that over, you’ll immediately discern the major departures from it. Track and trace them down: what causes them? Do they stem from common routines, habits, lacks, weaknesses? Piecing this together (without reacting) you will probably realise that there is a Big Departure there which you hadn’t seen before but which, now that you see it, is glaringly obvious. Nail that down and find an underlying reason for it. Address that, and you’ll instantly detect an uplift in your relationship.
I know one marriage which was repaired as soon as one partner spotted that it was his habit to throw solutions at his wife as soon as she voiced a problem in her life. But what the wife wanted was to be heard, to be listened to, to have a bouncing board she could use to solve her own problems. Spotting that, the husband changed tack and became a good listener — a fairly easy thing to do, once he realised that it was his own ego (his desire to present solutions to every problem) which was sabotaging his own marriage. Result? The wife began to feel more self-confident, stabler and validated, and re-developed her initial affinity for her husband = salvaged marriage.
Career/business-wise: work out some pragmatic but positive and inspirational goals. Spot where the departures are coming from — easy once you have an ideal worked out. What causes these departures? Do they have patterns? The more you look, the closer you’ll get to a Big Departure and its underlying reason.
One business depended for its existence on encouraging customers into its shop from the traffic flow in the street outside. It did this by stationing survey-gatherers outside and using persuasive body language and sales patter to get people to walk down the steps into the shop. Ideally, the business would not depend on such a strained flow, especially when by far the majority of people walking by had no interest in what the shop had to offer. Meanwhile, it had no online presence at all, and was making no or little use of previous customers to refer new ones. Outlining the ideal along the lines of ‘A business with regular flows of interested public from all over the city’ instantly threw up huge departures: the flow wasn’t regular, it wasn’t interested, and it certainly wasn’t from all over the city. Traced back to a Big Departure of a total ignorance of how marketing actually worked and an underlying reason of head office threatening leading staff with instant dismissal if street traffic wasn’t maintained, an evaluator had an opportunity to set everything straight. Once a real marketing campaign was set up and applied and an interested public was contacted, statistics went out the roof with less effort.
Setting a proper ideal is a creative, subjective thing. It can be changed, played with, altered over time; its magic lies in its power to shine a bright light on any given situation, and thus to reveal the shadows which need analysing and remedying.