Overcoming the Amygdala Part 71
Logic can help us in our quest to overcome the amygdala, but only if it is properly understood.
How can we come to understand what we think of as ‘logical’?
We need to take conscious control of our ability to project.
Many people struggle with the idea that they are unconsciously ‘projecting’ material onto the external world all the time. And that’s easy to understand, as it’s a difficult idea to grasp. We can’t necessarily see ‘beams’ coming from our eyes and minds painting images on the things around us. We see what we think is there. That’s our ‘normal’ experience. How can we begin to tell the difference?
One way of finding out the truth is to track what our amygdalas are telling us are ‘departures’. By establishing the ways in which things are noted as ‘departures’, we have some chance to establish what we are considering to be ‘ideal’.
In other words, if one has a grasp of what makes things ‘illogical' or ‘irrational’ or ‘missing’ or ‘inappropriate’, then it becomes possible to conceive of what makes things logical, rational, present and appropriate, as far as our individual unconscious selves are concerned.
There are several categories of departure as recognised by the amygdala:
1. Things are missing that should be there (or present that should not be there).
2. Events are out of an expected sequence.
3. Something about Time has changed — either there is too much of it, or too little, or none.
4. An apparent untruth has been added — something which seems out of place when other facts are known.
5. Significance has been exaggerated or reduced in some way.
Departures in whatever category then activate the amygdala.
You walk into your child’s bedroom at night and he or she is not there = amygdala activated.
Without any prior warning or conversation, you are threatened with losing your job = amygdala activated.
A car suddenly swerves into you on a high speed highway when you have little time to react = amygdala activated.
You hear a rumour which suggests something is true which you know should not be the case = amygdala activated.
A person suddenly seems to be of great emotional importance to you even though you’ve never met them before = amygdala activated.
Tracing back from each activation, we immediately find the ideal scene against which each situation has been instantly compared:
The child should be in the bedroom.
A protocol should be being followed at work regarding possible job loss.
Traffic should be flowing and predictable.
Things should make sense and match factually with each other in any given context.
People you meet should not have undue emotional effects over you. These categories of departure give us an almost limitless variety of ways in which the world can suddenly appear insane or threatening or somewhere in which we must prepare to fight or seek to flee — hence the amygdala stepping in to get our systems ready at the biological level.
Usually, not knowing that we are operating with departures of these types, we respond with cognitive distortions which seek to ‘explain’ or delay the effects of what we observe, or we react in accordance with the amygdala’s ‘panic buttons’:
We can tell ourselves ‘the child should be in the bedroom’ but quickly compute ‘he must have gone out for a walk’ to try to calm ourselves — or we can panic.
We can try to convince ourselves that the work protocol ‘doesn’t apply in this case’ to try to rationalise things, or we can drop into terror.
We can respond to deviations in traffic by swearing and ranting at the other driver, or we can anxiously pull off the road.
We can try to think with a rumour and maybe half-believe it with no evidence, or we can fall for it totally and descend into craziness.
We can tell ourselves that we need a break and play around with the idea of having an affair, or we can feel anxious and bury our feelings from everyone. All these responses are crazy to some degree.
The sane response would be to spot the ideal against which these things have arisen and pilot a sensible response through them:
We can calmly look for the child.
We can remind our superiors of the proper protocol and follow it ourselves.
We can calmly avoid the deviations in traffic.
We can negate the rumour, tracing it back to its source and nullifying it if needed.
We can analyse our emotions and spot that the person reminded us of someone from a past trauma and move on. That most of us don’t follow the sane and sensible path probably indicates that we are not totally aware of the projection/comparison mechanism which is at work.
Right now, you will be projecting various ideal scenarios onto your surroundings and receiving the ‘pings’ back from your amygdala if any of the categories of departure show up.
Take a look:
1. Is there anything (or anyone) missing that should be there (or present that shouldn't be there)?
2. Is something in your environment not occurring in an expected sequence?
3. Are you running out of time in some way? Or have too much of it?
4. Does something in your immediate environment strike you as untrue?
5. Is there something in your environment which feels to be of too great an importance? Or too little?
Spotting these things, major or minor, can give you some idea of what you are ‘beaming out’ onto your surroundings. You have a picture of what things should be like, what order things should be occurring in, how much time should be available, what is true and untrue, and how things rank in terms of importance, and this picture is being projected onto your external world all the time.
Where does this picture come from? It’s not like you woke up this morning and wrote out all these things, ready for the day. (Maybe you did, but you’d be unusual in that case.)
This picture comes from your ‘other half’, that part of you below, or above, or behind your waking daytime self. It’s a picture made up of things forgotten or half-forgotten, assumed, expected. Just as when you learn to drive a car, dozens of minor actions become subsumed into an automatic series of responses and then dropped out of conscious operation, so does your day to day experience become sublimated into your inner world.
To use another analogy, throughout life you are constantly learning to play the ‘instrument’ called ‘experience’ and those learned responses and mini-actions and behaviours get stored in your subconscious mind, to be called upon wherever those same or similar circumstances arise again. So you walk into your child’s bedroom at night, or go to work, or drive down the highway, or listen to a colleague or meet a stranger and your inner world is projected below your awareness onto all these things in order to give you feedback about what you encounter.
Two things can go wrong:
i) over time you can ‘train in’ responses which aren’t quite correct — you learn, for example, to always fume and swear and enact road rage whenever another driver behaves inappropriately, leading you into more and more trouble
ii) your projected scenario doesn’t quite match the reality around you, walking you forward into lots of amygdala alarms.
In both cases, the inner world has interfered detrimentally with your relationship with the outer environment.
The good news is that you can do something about all of this.