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Age of Amygdala

The amygdala is that small part of our brain that freaks out when we feel threatened.  I am, of course, oversimplifying the whole range of learned and instinctive behaviors involved in our fear response.  For my purposes, today, it is just important to know that the amygdala is a vital part of that.

This is good for our survival.  This is the whole system that allows us to jump back onto the sidewalk when we step in front of oncoming traffic, or jump back from a snake while we are out hiking.

The dilemma with the amygdala is that it really doesn’t know the difference between an imminent physical threat and a perceived intellectual and/or emotional one.

Oncoming traffic?  Freaked amygdala!
Poisonous snake? There goes the amygdala!

Person who disagrees with your worldview?  Hold on to your amygdala!

The Oatmeal has a great comic explaining this in more detail.  I highly encourage you to check it out.  For my purposes, though, I am wondering about the amygdala aftermath.  The high-tension hangover that comes from days and weeks and months of perceived intellectual and emotional threats.  The fatigue that defies rest.

I am fortunate to have curated my social media feeds so that most of what I see is optimistic, positive, and compassionate.  So many reminders that we are not alone, to keep moving, to ask for help and hugs every time we need them.  It’s lovely.

And some days, it just doesn’t help.

So, I am trying this new thing.  This thing where I am allowed to, for just a little while, bask in the dawning of the age of amygdala.  Let the heart race, let the monkey-mind wander, let the pressure build.  I am using my brain these days like an old-fashioned pressure cooker, where I need to watch carefully as the pressure builds and be sure to manage the release with a gentle, mindful hand.  I am finding, so far, that what happens when I allow this to happen, it’s like I’ve burned off a little bit of the lingering fear and anxiety so that when I exhale, it blows away like so much ash.

So far.  I wonder sometimes how many housewives sustained lifelong injuries from those old-school pressure cookers.  And if I am somehow destined to suffer a similar fate.

This is just one of many ways I am coping with the less-than-ideal, however, so for now I have other options (healthy and less healthy) to draw upon.  And my carefully curated social media feed, that just wants me to dance and be loved.

I’ll let you know how it’s going.

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