Overcoming the Amygdala Part 88


The world is run by people with fixed ideas.

This includes fixed ideals.

Partly what assists people in rising to positions of political power is a blinkered and often short-sighted determination to force in a particular vision of ‘how things should be’ over the top of all opposition, and, in many cases, over the top of reason and common sense. Thus we get the adversarial and frequently completely ineffective so-called ‘political system’ of modern times — one ‘side’ forcing in a set of goals against the other side’s opposition. Both sides usually fail to pay much attention to the existing scene — i.e. what is actually happening and what actually works in reality. So you get a ‘reactionary versus progressive’ situation of continual combative government, rather than a sensibly evaluated scene. What we call ‘history’ is usually the documented records of this conflict throughout the ages.

Attempts to make and maintain ideals of one kind or another have left the world scattered with the ruins of civilisations, broken communities and shattered individual lives.

Violence in the home, the community, the society at large, the nation and the world results when ideals are not correctly discovered, stated and rationally worked towards. That’s because fixed ideals — someone’s notion of what’s right, rather than an evaluated conclusion based on observation — can’t help but exclude significant parts of a life, a group or a country.

What is needed in all these cases is an awareness of a correct ideal, observation of departures from it, the discovery of the biggest departure and a rational programme to tackle that largest gap — the source of most of the other problems — and bring things closer to the ideal.


The Next Most Serious Difficulty

Most people have trouble spotting what a ‘departure’ is; most people have difficulties working out what the Biggest Departure in any given set of circumstances is. Most people don’t think in terms of existing and ideal circumstances. But the next specific problem most people have when it comes to learning how to think is establishing correct ideals.

Why? Usually because they are overcomplicating it.

You just have to ask ‘What's the purpose of this item/place/person/job/scene?’

The purpose of a pencil is to draw. To accomplish that purpose, it needs to be able to be held in the hand and to be composed of material which leaves a mark.

The purpose of a car is to transport human beings and goods from one place to another. To accomplish that purpose, it needs to have a working engine, a sheltered place for a human driver to sit and control it, and wheels. (Self-driving cars have set an ideal which excludes the human bit.)

The purpose of a book group is to discuss chosen books with a view to highlighting things to read or to avoid reading. To accomplish that purpose, it needs to have a meeting place or effective means of communicating, a code of manners necessary to permit a flow of communication, and a set of readable books.

The purpose of a family is to nurture, protect and enhance the individuals within it including children. To accomplish that purpose, it needs to have shelter, food, healthcare, and a sane operating code which encourages growth, rationality and mutual compassion.

You get the idea.

Outline the purpose and you have the thing’s ideal. There really isn’t much more to it than that.

The only other factors are:

1. Time — when or over what period of time is this ideal supposed to last? and

2. Do-ability — is this ideal achievable within existing resources?

You might err if you excluded these factors.

The purpose of a pencil is to draw for a reasonable amount of time. A pencil which snapped every five seconds or was so short that it only lasted a minute would not be ideal. Similarly, if it was too spiky for a hand to hold. But it would also be unattainable if it had to be ‘an eternal pencil’ which never ran out of graphite.

The purpose of a car is to transport human beings and goods reliably over a reasonable length of time. If you added in a requirement that it also be able to fly, you would be pushing the ideal beyond the bounds of achievability.

The purpose of a book group is to discuss chosen books according to an agreed schedule. Leave out the schedule and you wouldn’t have much of a group; ask the group to also write a better book each time and the ideal gets stretched too far.

The purpose of a family would become warped if you set it up to only last a few weeks or days — nurturing needs time. Similarly, you would be wrong to expect it to accomplish miracles.

Once an ideal for something has been worked out fairly correctly, it can be written down as a statement. From this one can work out the complexities involved in creating it. But instantly, and sometimes with enormous clarity, one can see what departures exist. One compares the existing situation to the ideal and bang! one can see the obstacles and it becomes feasible to discern a way forward.

Maybe the pencil lead keeps snapping. By tracing down how that happens — perhaps it is too violently transported, or perhaps the lead is made of materials which are too soft or too brittle — one can fix the problem and make more ideal pencils.

A car that keeps breaking down isn’t going to be able to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Fixing the engine restores it closer to its ideal — an obvious example.

Perhaps the book group keeps falling apart. Observing the scene, one might determine that one person keeps disrupting the schedule so that the group doesn’t meet regularly enough to build up any momentum; or perhaps another person is violating the group rules in small ways, leading other members to shy away from attending. Repair those things, and the group returns to healthy and interesting meetings which stay on topic.

A family might not be nurturing, protecting or enhancing the individuals within it because the father is a violent alcoholic. Sort that out and the family moves closer to its purpose.

Some of these things might seem obvious. I’m using them as examples to outline how this works in principle. What you’re faced with in life may be decidedly more complex. But the same question needs to be asked: ‘What is the purpose of what is in front of me?’

Let’s say you’ve been asked to speak to a large audience and are terrified.

Ask yourself ‘What’s the purpose of my speech?’

The answer might be something like ‘To inform the audience about your experiences during your last year of school.’

Add in some time: ‘To inform the audience about your experiences during your last year of school over about fifteen minutes.’

Add in some realistic expectations: ‘To inform the audience about your experiences during your last year of school over about fifteen minutes, keeping in mind that there are a whole series of speakers before and after you and that the expectations of the highly sympathetic audience are low.’

Grasping that ideal accomplishes two things: it gives you something do-able to aim for; and, in doing so, it reduces your amygdalic activity considerably.

You are in control of the ideal and you can therefore determine the magnitude of the task ahead. That means that your amygdala doesn’t have to scream warnings at you based on unanalysed or unrealistic visions of what is required.

Take a look around your current environment. What is being expected of you? What is the purpose of that activity?

Over what period of time?

What would be considered do-able?

You might find that things calm down quite a bit…

Stay tuned.

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