Overcoming the Amygdala Part 52


Life as an Active Experience


As we’ve seen, the general conditions of most people’s lives are passive in the sense that things just ‘happen’ to them. Genetically, and then in terms of their nurturing environment, most individuals are at the effect point; they are born to certain parents; they are sent to school and allocated a class group, something which often determines life-long connections and associations; then there’s a normally fairly random process by which individuals end up in career paths, which are often narrow channels full of pre-determined choices and priorities set by others.

It’s no wonder then that the average human being finds himself or herself in circumstances not necessarily conducive to help when it comes to dealing with anxiety — indeed, this random selection of conditions may be a significant contributor to the underlying anxiety in the first place. Where are the true friends? Where are the compassionate faces? Where are the people attuned to one’s own innermost needs?

Nothing about the usual pattern of life is aimed at providing the individual with ideal conditions in which to flourish anxiety-free.

Hence the underlying tendency of the amygdala to ring the alarm bells — the amygdala’s operations, remember, are to do with signalling departures from an ideal scenario. If we could somehow surround ourselves with true friends, compassionate faces, and people tuned to our innermost needs, the amygdala would largely fall silent.

Our task is to alter the normal pattern of our passive lives and shape our lives into a more active experience.

Instead of just ‘waiting’ for the right people or conditions to arrive, we have to act to bring them to us or we have to proactively seek them out.

In the days before social media this was very difficult. Trapped by circumstances over which an individual had little control — home life, work life, social routines — a person would have many obstacles to ‘getting out there’ and finding others of like mind. Pubs and bars and other social venues provided one avenue, but these were limited by geography and character; clubs and other societies presented another way of meeting appropriate friends, but were similarly imperfect. Thus, the background ‘noise’ of the amygdala persisted, signalling ‘departure, departure, departure’ until such time as the individual was able — normally through a combination of lucky accidents — to locate another person who could and would act as a ‘discharging point’: a friendly, understanding, capable ‘other’ who would help to relieve the anxiety, reduce the polarity, increase the affinity, and effectively switch off or reduce the activity of the amygdala.

Social media opens the door to a proper solution.