Overcoming the Amygdala Part 90

Quantifying things — especially things which formerly you may never have quantified —is very important if you want to encourage sanity, correct thinking, and a quieter amygdala.

Many people — perhaps most people — wander around in life projecting onto their environments wishes, desires, images based on past experiences and future wants, and so on, and their amygdalas 'ping' back to them various departures from these scenarios. When the scenarios are apparently packed full of departures, we get the ‘ping overload’ which we call anxiety; when that overload wears us down over time, we get what we call depression.

But in most cases, the ideal that is being projected is something based on hearsay, fantasies, cognitive distortions, and prejudices that we haven’t analysed properly in the first place — so the ‘pings’ that come back are a mess of departures that aren’t really departures, or ‘hazard warnings’ about things that aren’t really dangerous, or ‘fight/flight’ activators based on things that don’t really require us to fight or flee — on top of actual departures indicating the presence of real dangers.

That’s what many people call ‘thinking’.

A huge proportion of this stems from other people's prejudices that have been bought into, unassessed or misassessed computations of our own, efforts to cover up or failures to observe properly in the first place. This is both devastatingly sad — as human beings, families and entire societies go pear-shaped because of these things — but also opens the door to betterment and sanity. Why?

Because all of this is under our control.

We can — fairly easily — establish our own simple, achievable and very sane ideals and project them onto every conceivable set of circumstances around us; and from there, we can work out rationally where things are falling down and set about repairing them consciously.

Quantification is what helps here. If, instead of relying on opinion or guesswork, we can actually see departures, because a statistic drops, we can quickly go about noticing when and so get at the fundamental reasons why.

A measurement of quantity is protected from falsification — it’s clean of prejudice, it can be examined non-emotively, in isolation. Statistics become crucial. They provide the most reliable data available.

This can get quite magical — indeed, the proper application of this can seem very much like wizardry.

I once worked as a consultant for someone who owned a business which rented out musical equipment to London recording studios. Over the last few months, the business, which normally ran fairly smoothly, had become a mish-mash of disasters, illnesses, staff resignations and customer complaints. No matter what the owner did, he couldn’t get to the bottom of what was wrong. The first thing I did on being called in was to ask