Overcoming the Amygdala Part 53
Fairly inevitably, some people will struggle putting together a Life Profile or an Amygdala Statement, as covered last time. This is probably because they are overcomplicating it, driven, perhaps, by their own overactive amygdalas.
To help, try to remember that a Life Profile is a one- or two-page document which tries (and doesn’t necessarily completely succeed, but it’s the effort that counts) to answer the question ‘Who are you?’
You can begin with your likes and dislikes, your loves, your fears, common interests and passions, hobbies, politics, beliefs, favourite books or films, places visited and so on. Jotting these things down will give you some notion of the identity behind them, the person who shares these things, i.e. You.
If you want to really get stuck in on this, try putting together an Affinity Map of your life so far.
You do this by plotting times when you felt the most affinity for various aspects of your life: Self, Family Environment, Work, Society and the Spirit or the Arts.
Draw up a simple graph — the bottom axis is Time, and cover whatever period you wish and divide it as you wish. In the examples which follow, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve divided the axis into decades, but you could divide it into years or some other increment if you want. The other axis measures ‘Affinity’, and is somewhat arbitrary, as it’s hard to determine a unit of measurement for affinity. The higher the graph, the more affinity; the lower, the less affinity.
These are not scientific graphs, but a subjective visual display of how a person feels about each of these particular areas at the time he or she devises them.
Let’s look at a few examples.
1. The first graph shows how much affinity Ralph, a 40-year-old librarian, has for himself as an individual. You can see that in his childhood he had a high liking for himself, but his adolescent years were a disaster in terms of self-image; in his twenties, this picked up a little, but afterwards went into a decline. Ralph will know the various specific events which lie behind the simple columns, but the graph itself helps him to see a pattern. Importantly, those places where the graph dips will also indicate the times of greatest amygdalic activity. Ralph could then go on to draw up graphs for Family Environment, Work, Society and the Spirit or the Arts and might spot some interesting correlations.
2. In the second graph, we get a glimpse of Candy’s first four decades of life with regard to her family. Clearly, her home life was not a happy one: affinity levels show that her sense of love in the environment was quite low. In fact, as Candy knows, it was only after her parents died when she was in her early 30s that she began to appreciate them and miss them. Her graphs on Self, Work, Society and the Spirit or the Arts might reveal some fascinating overlaps, as well as showing the areas in which her amygdala is most active.
3. George’s graph shows a predilection for work, from his early year at school where he felt a reasonable level of affinity for the tasks he was assigned, to the love he had for his job in his teens and 20s. It was only in his 30s, after losing a much-loved position with a company, that he began to feel really anxious about life generally. Comparative graphs with other areas of his life might show up some interesting parallels.
4. Marion’s Affinity Map on society shows a distinct disaffection with it throughout. It was only in her teens that she enjoyed participating in wider social activities, and then only a little. Her political activism picked up a little in her 30s, but only begrudgingly. Other maps of her life might reveal reasons why — but her low affinity in this one indicates a great deal of anxiety around social issues, perhaps to the point where she has ‘shut out’ broader concerns.
5. Marcus’s Affinity Map for the Spirit or the Arts, clearly highlights a distinct spiritual experience he had in his teens, which was then crushed in his 20s — an experience from which he has not yet fully recovered. Clues as to why might be found in the rest of his Affinity Maps.
Affinity Maps like this can help to give shape to someone’s understanding of their own life. Comparisons between different areas can highlight some interesting things: perhaps the reason for a plummeting affinity for Self in one’s teens was a departure from a nurturing Family Environment, or entrance into a career which was dismally low in affinity; perhaps a rise in affinity for the Arts parallels the discovery that the individual could do some good for the world by creating beautiful things. The patterns are limitless. Their purposes for us, in terms of overcoming the amygdala, are to reveal distinctive individualities which contribute to a Life Profile. Having completed a set of graphs covering each of these aspects, a person may come to a better comprehension of how their own life has evolved and what it is exactly that they are missing — and as we have learned, detecting what is missing is a key to amygdalic activity.
Here we see Philip’s combined maps:
From this, we can see that, in his 30s, Philip had a high sense of affinity for himself, for society and for the arts, but had gradually grown disaffected with his family environment and work. It might be easy for us to surmise that Philip’s work and family life were a source of anxiety, perhaps because they were blunting his desire to do more for society through his art — but of course, only Philip would know the answer. These maps are for Philip to clarify that answer and to see for himself ‘who he is’ at a given point in time.
Affinity Maps are for you only — they are not a test, but rather a tool for expressing how you feel about these areas of your life. In themselves they may have a limited therapeutic value, but their true role is to help you define who you are as part of a Life Profile, which in turn may help you to draw closer to yourself the people and things you need from your surroundings.