stroking my amygdala

On September 4, 2011 by a.G.

What do you do when good things happen? Do you accept it with dignity and graceful acceptance; knowing that you’ve worked hard for it and deserve some joy in your life?

Me neither.

What generally tends to happen (to me) is a layering effect… excited – happy – nervous – jazzed – freaked – anxious – jumbled – nervous – excited – happy. Like a triple layer of delicate baklava with bitter in the middle.

Even after all these years of self exploration and lashing myself into a mantra of ‘succeed’, that little nebbish ((nĕb’ĭsh)  n. A person regarded as weak-willed or timid.) naysayer lays in wait; to cut me to the quick every time. Think a tiny, obnoxious imp that heckles from the back of your brain. You might laugh but it jams up my mojo pretty damn badly. Examples? Sure why not. I’m not afraid of you seeing my internal idiosyncratic idiocy.

 

“Things are going to good here kiddo. When’s the shoe gonna drop?”

“Don’t flub this up like you always do”

“Just wait til’ they see who you really are.”

“Better have a plan B. Just sayin.”

“You’re not gonna wear THAT are you?” (oh wait. that’s what my mother says. nevermind.)

 

In reality I’m having a fight with my Amygdala. Yes in the land of the Limbic system. You know the hot spot where FIGHT OR FLIGHT comes from? My brain identifies a threat (this is the important part here kids) WHETHER IT’S REAL OR PERCEIVED. And I react. When I’m not jiving with my own self… this response gets a bit whack. This is where the “open mouth insert foot” moments stem from. This is where anxiety lives as well as anger. THIS IS WHERE BAD DAYS COME CALLING. Here’s a better explanation from Brain Leaders and Learners author Dr. Ellen Weber.

Located deep within your brain’s temporal lobes, this almond shaped mood bender,  helps to shape and store reactions to unexpected shockers in your day. Will you shout or smile? Will you freeze in fear or risk with courage? The little neuron group pretty much decides for you. Sit through an upsetting meeting, and this tiny arousal center may well incite negative emotions in response. Have you seen it happen?

There’s more too. This agitated control center engages brain stem circuits that impact facial expressions and body language. It also triggers release of chemicals such as serotonin or cortisolinto the blood, to trigger often unwanted emotional response. It’s even activated by nasty odors on occasion. So why does the human brain come with such a pesky part?

Good question Dr. Weber. But how do we mental push ups to retrain our brain?

Simply act deliberately in the opposite direction of any volatile,  negative, or moody feelings.  If feeling fearful or if you are embarrassed, for instance, trydisagreeing more with the brain in mind. In this way, the very act of using a skill to disagree well, begins to rewire your brain for healthier responses in similar situations.

Simply put, you can learn to bypass your amygdala‘s automatic default operations, in much the same way you choose to tap different buttons on a computer, to enter a different screen.

 

OHHHHHH. I get it. ACT DIFFERENTLY; the first step of which is to identify when you’re having such knee jerk reactions. Got it. Here’s how I do this.

1. Write down the thought BEHIND the reaction. Yes. Write. It. Out. Seeing it in black and white does wonders for perception.

2. Write out a challenging statement to the reaction.

3. Repeat that challenging statement in your mind like a new mantra of win.

 

Yep. Just like that. Seriously. Example? Sure. I call it “The Broken Record”. (you may get to a point where you don’t have to write it any longer, but generally writing it is the best method) Using the above mentioned examples…

“Things are going to good here kiddo. When’s the shoe gonna drop?”

I’ve worked hard for this success. It is earned not randomly given.

 

“Don’t flub this up like you always do”

I have achieved great things even though I’ve made mistakes; those mistakes have led to even greater learning.


“Just wait til’ they see who you really are.”

Who I really am is pretty damn cool sometimes and geeky and nerdy and not-cool other times. I am okay with that.

 

“Better have a plan B. Just sayin.”

Contingency plans consist of staying on the path. Anything else is panic mode.

 

“You’re not gonna wear THAT are you?” (oh wait. that’s what my mother says. nevermind.)

Shut up Mom. I mean I love you Mom *eye roll*


These two almond shaped buggers are naturally large and well formed in this chick’s brain … meaning I have worked out these little nubs of win and mostly have retrained my brain to NOT REACT. Yeah. Not every day can be a brain-retrained day. However, knowing this is almost all of the battle. KNOWING that I’m having a chemical response can lead me down the path of emotional intelligence; turning not-so-peachy days into “I GOT THIS” afternoons.

This has been your brain chemistry dumbed down to the point of sickening moment. Stroke your amygdala into a state of calm with behavioral interventions. A few well placed words on iPod repeat or for older cats like me a broken record can work wonders. I heart you amygdala. I will stroke you and pet you and call you George. Let’s be friends. I heart neuropsychology.

4 Responses to “stroking my amygdala”

  • duh I got the stuff wrong, my name is Patti The plan B mentality has totally messed up my life, Changing majors, settling for an abusive relationship, settling for the least of myself in my life, although this is part just surviving instead of living. post traumatic stress syndrome really exasperates the amygdala. thanks.!

  • Love this presentation, Amy…want to suggest something called stress innocculation. Just say I have compiled a list of those messages from the nebbish, and ranked them from least to most powerful emotionally. So now I will practice bringing on the stress physiology by saying the nebbish message to myself, maybe create the posture and/or expression until I feel uncomfortable, then I will practice the disputation thought until the emotional response is back to 0 level intensity. Then I will repeat the process, bring on the amygdala response, consciously reduce the amygdala response, and repeat it five or 10 times or even 20, and usually the nebbish thought loses its power induce the amygdala response. You can do this at the kitchen table, you do not have to wait until you hear the good news. Another tool, which requires some writing, is to gather evidence for and evidence against your nebbish thought, and then create a balanced thought that combines both kinds of evidence. Love Dr. Webbers work too. Mike Logan

  • You inspire me everyday. Through the simple act of writing out your hopes and fears and realities and insecurities…..you have been a constant to me and my self actualization. I find myself taking deep breathes, replacing hope where there was once hollowness, and peeling back the hardened layers of repetition, al lthe while wondering why I wasn’t getting different results. The feeling of seeing the light through an open window of endless opportunities, as opposed to a circular room of doors constantly slamming…..well for lack of a worthy adjective…..is soul-moving…..Thank you, Amy…..thank you.

  • Amazing post. I believe that I have made some progress in this area – but every once in a while I hear the voices too. I tell them to shut the fackle up. Sometimes they listen. Thanks for sharing!

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