For a Good Year, Turn Down Your Amygdala

Jan. 1, 2013
We are biologically wired for bad news. Good 50,000 years ago. Not so today...

Someone told me once that if we spent the same amount of time learning how our bodies work as we do watching our favorite team, life would be a lot easier.

Deep in the recess of our mind is the amygdala (pronounced ah MIG dah lah).

It decodes our emotions; determines possible threats; and, stores memories of fear.

The amygdala is our early warning system.

Its job is to find ANYTHING in our surrounding environment that might threaten our survival. Anxious under normal conditions, once stimulated it goes into hyper-drive.

It served us very well when we were hunters and gathers, when our existence was constantly at risk from predators, natural calamity, and the like.

Today, the amygdala most often works against us.

Our lives are exponentially safer than any other time in human history. We don’t need it so much.

Still, the amygdala is almost impossible to shut off once it is turned on: a big problem in today’s over-stimulated 24/7/365 world.

This is why the media and advertisers push fear and bad news on us. They are connecting with the amygdala and our biological selves.

Because the amygdala is constantly looking for threats- without context- we develop irrational concerns about such things as wrinkles, terrorists, erectile dysfunction, the “fiscal cliff”, illegal immigrant invasions, financial crisis, and getting old.

We implode. Panic. And are constantly stressed out, not knowing why.

Epicurus, the Greek thinker, got it right 2,500 years ago when he wrote about the solution to this dilemma:

“Human beings are put in this state not by correct judgment, but by some irrational impulse. Therefore, since they cannot define or set a limit to the marvelous and the strange, they suffer an equally or even more intense disturbance than if they had applied a rational judgment to these matters.”

May we all have a rational 2013.

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