Overcoming the Amygdala Part 89


Having established an ideal for a situation, activity, person or whatever, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether one is approaching that ideal or moving away from it.

Let’s say that you have established that the ideal for your home life is ‘A quiet, peaceful space in which I can get on with constructive things without interruption or drama over the next few years.’ This ideal seems achievable within the resources you have available. Naming out the ideal has in all likelihood revealed immediately to you the major departures from it: the disruptive room-mates, the constant interruptions, the ongoing distractions. But at least now you can begin to categorise these departures and track down the biggest one. Address that, and 90% of your problems will disappear, boosting you towards your ideal.

However, in the confusion of the existing scene, you may not be able to clearly spot whether or not your ideal is actually being attained. What you need is some kind of independent measure, not opinion, which empowers you to actually tell what’s happening.

Measurement usually involves numbers, and this is in fact the clue to how to proceed: if you can’t clearly perceive what’s happening, you need to be able to numerically measure things.

In the case of the above ideal, ‘A quiet, peaceful space in which I can get on with constructive things without interruption or drama over the next few years’, you need to quantify its parts: what exactly are you going to call an ‘interruption’ and a ‘drama’, and how many of them are occurring on, say, a daily basis? Conversely, how many hours of peace and quiet have you experienced? This means actual numbers of times and actual hours — not vague guesses or hearsay.

This can be extremely eye-opening.

If you were to do nothing more than keep a little log book for two or three days, in dealing with the above, you would probably find it very enlightening. After one day, you might note that you only managed an hour and a half of ‘quiet time’ out of an available 15 waking hours; defined interruptions numbered 17; dramas numbered three.

After another day, you see that you managed to get up to two hours of quietness, but with another 10 interruptions and five more dramas.

Your log book is now a handy instrument: you can tell immediately, once you begin analysing things, where most of the interruptions and dramas are coming from, and exactly how they are cutting across your times of peace. Perhaps you discover that one of your room-mates in particular seems to be prone to stirring up the trouble. You zoom in on that person, get to the bottom of his or her problems, introduce some schedules into the life of the house, and things settle down immediately. Yes, there are still some interruptions and an occasional drama, but by analysing what has actually been happening, quantifying it, categorising it and addressing its causes, you find that you have dramatically approached your ideal of a quiet home life.

What would normally have happened?

You might have reacted to every interruption and drama, lost your cool, tried to introduce a draconian schedule designed to enforce your wishes over the top of it all (a strategy doomed to fail as it doesn’t address the problems’ root causes) and then shut yourself way in your room fuming at your failures.

Your amygdala would have been going wild.

Instead, taking an analytical approach, using some unusual but completely common-sensical tools, you have taken your home life to a new level of serenity.