How is your amygdala doing?

Recently I had a huge discovery: My fears are the biggest obstacle against my growth. I came to realize my stagnation has nothing to do with the lack of aptitude, mental or physical ability, gender, financial status, education level, family history or geographical location. But what hinders me, and I believe all of us, from doing big stuff is our f* fears. To come clean, here is my top chart amygdala* tunes:

  • Fear of the lack of time & money: I don’t have enough time and money. I may never have enough of them. It’s almost impossible to get done what I have in my mind each day. I don’t know how to make and manage money.
  • Fear of failure: I am too emotional and soft and these qualities are not getting me anywhere. What I want to achieve in my life is too big and I may not have what it takes. Who do you think you are?!
  • Fear of rejection: Most people think I am too dreamy and unrealistic. I might be screwed if I make myself vulnerable and show my heart to the world. Also If I don’t agree with people no one wants to be around me so I can’t be myself 100% of times.
  • Fear of dying before fulfilling my life’s purpose:. My whole life is a waste if I don’t get to Light.

Recognition is a big step forward, but it’s not enough, right? So I told myself start knowing and I figured out a whole bunch of stuff about fear and our brain structure as well as an effective way to deal with my fears. But let me tell you right upfront, don’t think it’s a one-off job. No no no! Unfortunately there is no easy button or magic pill involved. It’s a conscious process and whenever I fall off the wagon my amygdala sings me her songs loud and clear.

Ok let’s begin our journey into fear. The definition of fear by medical dictionary is: the unpleasant emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to a real external threat or danger.

Fear is not bad, without it we couldn’t survive. It’s a natural emotion and healthy when appropriate to the situation. But most of our fears has nothing to do with a real external danger, right? It has everything to do with our thoughts related to a future state which might or might not happen! But as smart as our brain is, it can’t differentiate between a serious threat or an imaginary threat, and both create the same fight, freeze or flight response! By the way did you know fight, freeze or flight response activates our sympathetic nervous system, sends stress signals throughout the body and shuts down some physiological activities like digestion while overriding our ability to reason, problem-solve and think clearly? Imagine you are out in the wild and you see a lion approaching. In this situation wasting energy on digestion or sitting there reasoning our best exit strategy, is not going to save our ass, right? We just must run in the opposite direction and hide, right? Our body is a super-bio-computer and without our intervention knows what to do to increase its survival chance. In these sorts of scenarios prefrontal cortex of the brain shuts down automatically, as we don’t need it for running away. This means that our ability to comprehend, communicate, find solutions, and reason are heavily impaired. Also to respond to the emergency in hand, our body increases the blood flow to our muscles, increases our blood sugar and focuses our mind on the thing that’s scaring us.

In a Collective level, fear overrides hope in societies. Fear is an automatic emotion, grounded in the perceived present and often based on the memorised past, processed unconsciously, that leads to freezing of beliefs, conservatism, and sometimes preemptive aggression [1]. Hope, in contrast, involves mostly cognitive activity, which requires the search for new ideas and thus is based on creativity and flexibility. Because hope is based on thinking, it can be seriously impeded by the spontaneous and unconscious interference of fear. Both fear and hope can become collective emotional orientations that organize society’s views and direct its forms of action [1].

Ok now that we know about fear’s personal and collective side effects, what shall we do about it? How can we free ourselves from its grip?

In my experience RECOGNITION is the first step. It’s not that difficult to recognise our fears and bodily sensations associated with it, is it? Next time a fearful thought popped up in our mind or we felt our bodily sensations associated with fear, we can take a deep breath and check a moment whether our life is in immediate danger or not? By the way have you ever noticed our fears is always about a future state? If our life is not in an immediate danger, then we can take a few more deep breaths and consciously calm down our mind by talking to ourselves. We can thank our mind and body for wanting to safe us but telling them sorry it was a false alarm, you can go back to rest, and consciously activate our para-sympathetic nervous system and relaxation responses. It is our CHOICE. Thirdly we can take a few moments to look at what makes us afraid and do some self-inquiry to PUNCH HOLES in those thoughts or seek help from a coach or therapist or whomever we feel right, to pin down the root of fear, bring it into light and punch holes in it.

Just last week when one of my dear friends was coaching me on one of my lack and attack stories, she told me Aria next time you catch yourself in this thought Remember to drop your story and imagine taking the thought, throwing it on the ground and dancing like crazy all over it!!! LOL… How fun is that? we can ridicule our fears and choose to throw them away or put them in bed. Only then we have the energy and focus to go and get done what it needs to get done.

May we all be free from our fears.

XoxoAria

* amygdala: The amygdala, from the Greek word for almond, is one of two almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep and medially within the temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans [2]. The amygdala controls autonomic responses associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation and has been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorder and social phobias [3].

[1] Bar-Tal, D. (2001), Why Does Fear Override Hope in Societies Engulfed by Intractable Conflict, as It Does in the Israeli Society?. Political Psychology, 22: 601–627.

[2] University of Idaho College of Science (2004). “amygdala”. Archived from the original on 31 March 2007.

[3] Scott P. Edwards, (2005), The Amygdala: The Body’s Alarm Circuit, The Dana Foundation.

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