Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Amygdala - Your Brain's Red Alert Sensor (plus a British Beach Holiday)

Only two weeks ago, I discussed how I saw my alcoholic Mum, despite the fact she died some thirteen years ago.

That post is still steadily growing in views. I thought it would be a good place to start this week by analysing that flashback which I did with my psychologist.
My Skoda/VW/Garmin Sat Nav crashed like my mind did!


The amygdala is a small nut shaped blob at the bottom of your brain. It is essentially the caveman part of your brain. On a side note... should that be caveperson not the gender-specific caveman?

Anyway, this blob is found throughout the animal kingdom in creatures that have the almost instinctive fight or flight reactions. The amygdala is your inner caveman sensing predators and making your legs run away before 'you' know it! Analogy time... Imagine it is the computer you bought in 1999 - it even had a floppy disk drive! The issue with our modern mind and our 21st century life and stressors is that we are trying to run Windows 10 on that 17 year old computer or even running a 'state of the art' Sat Nav and Car Interface on Windows XP! The two struggle to run together.
Post continues below tweet/video:     

You spot something out of the corner of your eye. Your amygdala fires chemicals into your body putting you at alert status. The bigger the threat, the more chemicals it fires and the higher you go into Red Alert. Your rational mind turns your head and focuses on the item, comparing it to your in build wikipedia of experience and knowledge before logically deciding a response.

However, if your amygdala is already at Red Alert, your rational mind doesn't get a chance to anaylse the situation. You are hit by such a wave of stress, adrenalin and anxiety, you run. This would of been a handy instinctive-response if prehistoric you bumped into a sabre-toothed tiger. Every millisecond waiting for the rational mind to anaylse and process is a millisecond you need to run away from that deadly creature. My issue, and an issue alot of us face, is that our amygdala is putting us into the 'Red Alert' or 'Run Away' setting for situations that do not need it - such as the situation I encountered with my girlfriend in that aforementioned post (linked here for you to catch up on :) ). Rather than analytically seeing my drunk friend, my amygdala saw a threat which triggered the memory of dead alcoholic Mother. This quick recall function would be dead handy if you saw a big beast and your brain needed to quickly decide whether it is time to run from Mr Tiger or fight Mr Toad but when it is reloading and rebooting the anger and fear of my Mother and the awful situations I faced with her; it is less than helpful to say the least.
Selfcare at the beach
with @blue_smudge

I'm paraphrasing quite a bit here so I am sure some of you will argue with the details but in essence I suffered a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) type flashback. At some point, some detail of the event, or similar enough, happened with my Mother which is why my amygdala felt it relevant to re-experience the situation or parts thereof. It was a horrible experience, something which in 'the cold light of day' doesn't stand up to my logical mind's scrutiny but then emotions and the drivers of them, such as anxiety, rarely do.

In treating PTSD, Psychologists look to identify and gradually expose the patient to the stimuli involved in an attempt to reprogramme the amygdala not to have such a high alert response OR at least to try and process and analyse the scenario through therapy. It is interesting that I have only ever seen two people 'turn' into my mother. One as a teenager, which lead me to panic and get help and this occasion just two weeks ago. Trying to analyse the 'stimuli' or circumstances of each times doesn't quite work as the only matching criteria is a very drunk female yet I have been around very drunk Ladies before from family to best friends to customers and not suffered a response anywhere near that level.

That pink blob bought my Mum
and all my fears and anger back to life.
Am I doing the right thing trying to process and correct what seems to be 'programming' errors in my system, seemingly my amygdala, or is it better to admit I will never function quite right and just try to live with life?

Psychology and Philosophy! Lucky you!

Anyway, I am going to wrap up here except to mention the fantastic holiday I just returned from with my amazing girlfriend. We were even recognised in a local pub this week! #localcelebs! :P As discussed in last week's post, please do come say Hi - never be shy!

The drama club Summer Show opens in just a week and ticket sales still need a boost. I'm out of ideas but I know I have given my show my best, as director, and the second play is also really good. It is just down to the casts to sell it better. Our webmaster Rob has just relaunched the club's website, www.ihdc.co.uk, which looks amazing so please have a browse and tweet either of us if you spot a hole.
@ Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
 See more below on my Social Media

As the norm, below is some social media highlights. I'd love to hear your feedback on on my blog but also the video - is a buddy box worth it? Does it make friends or family feel they are helping or understanding or does it help you share the burden of your mental health?

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Thank you once again for your support and reading my blog.