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Overcoming the Amygdala Part 96

We’re learning how to think properly.

Why do people react rather than think?

This might be best understood on a simple mechanical level: a departure is, by definition, a gap, a hole, a mystery, an unknown, something missing. It can be an absent fact or item, or a sequence that isn’t right, or a lie or an altered importance or something to do with time, but what’s ‘missing’ in each case is a part of the ideal.

A departure, then, acts like a ‘hole’ or vacuum whenever it pops up.

And vacuums or holes are things into which attention is drawn, by an almost mechanical force.

So what happens when most people see a departure is that their attention is drawn towards it, sucked into its vicinity, and they stick to it. That’s the mechanics of ‘reaction’.

The presence of departures in our environment means that our attention is sucked hither and thither, often to the point where we feel it is not under our control at all. We get to the point where the amygdala’s alarms are ringing to warn us of who knows what, there are so many ‘holes’ dragging in our attention.

Reacting to each and every departure as it arises, then, is a mistake, as we have seen — it just leads to ‘one thing after another’, and doesn’t resolve the main problem unless we’re very lucky.

But if reactions happen automatically, mechanically, whenever a departure springs out of nowhere, what should we do?

Looking Wider

One’s immediate response on seeing any single departure should be to step back and look wider.

You might be running a company and receive a report that staff absenteeism is very high in a particular office. You could easily react and simply order that ‘staff absenteeism be handled as a priority’. But, apart from the fact that that order isn’t likely to deal with the situation, you’re probably missing the wider scene.

Stepping back, you note that the office in question is in the middle of a city heavily affected by a ‘flu epidemic. No matter how hard you shouted to ‘get absenteeism sorted’, you wouldn’t be addressing what needs to be addressed — the situation would just become more stressful and frustrating. Now that you’re aware of a wider scene, you can arrange the necessary medical procedures, quarantines, support staff and so forth, and before long staff levels will be back to normal. That’s because you found the bigger departure — the epidemic — and addressed that. Reacting to departures one at a time is exhausting and usually fruitless: much better to understand the mechanics of reaction and respond rationally instead.


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