AMYGDALA, SHMYGDALA— Fear & Healing in the 21st Century

A recent NY Times science article described the significance of the amygdala, a primitive brain structure and its connection with the perception  of fear.

Animals who have suffered damage to the amygdala seem to ignore dangerous situations even after they have been injured by having gone through them.  Not good to be sure. But they were free from fear and worry.

But fear and worry are truly "hard-wired" into who we are.  Without it our ancestors would have never survived the many threats to their existence. And neither would we.

To worry, to plan, to anticipate is a survival mechanism. To obsessively worry, plan or anticipate is not.  Our ancestors evolved to anticipate, evade or combat episodes of threat.  There were presumably periods of time to rest and restore some sense of relative tranquility.  Their amygdala's could chill out for a while.

What is disturbing about our contemporary society is the constant bombardment of distressing, threatening news and information.  There is no let up.  Our amygdalas as well as entire automonic nervous system, our hypothalmic, pituitary, adrenal axis, our "fight or flight" mechanisms are on high alert–all the time.

Internet, BlackBerries, 24hr news reporting,  text messages, twitter etc. etc.  There is no rest for the weary amygdala, for us.

What evolved for survival now keeps us on the edge.  Our immune systems are unable to find the time to repair themselves.  Our minds are constantly flooded with threatening messages. Our emotional selves are in need of repair, of healing.

Many of us are old enough to recall when there were no cell phones, internet, instant communication.  The news was available through newspapers, tv, radio but only on occasion.  You couldn't expect to reach people–immediately.  And we did survive.

So be kind to your amygdala.  Let is rest.  Recall the Serenity Prayer–what we cannot change we need to release.  Turn off your electronics.  Become unavailable for periods of time.  Don't check your messages.  Don't watch TV or scan the internet for defined periods.  Don't respond immediately to messages that can wait.  We now expect such immediacy, even when it is not needed. 

It will be difficult. I know.  But it may be the only way to heal.


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