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The Amygdala in 5 Minutes

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THE BRAIN EVOLVED TO NOT THINK ABOUT THINKING… It evolved to deal quickly with the hundreds of things we have to cope with on a daily basis and that process gave us an advantage over time, helping initially our ancestors to survive. Reacting quickly, our default mode, running away from or fight potential threats which thousands of years ago this was necessary as our brains began the process of molding into its present day form, coping with threats in a torrid and harrowing wild environment. With snakes, lions, many predators, other nomadic strangers to face and not just ‘harmless’ but annoying loud neighbors or narcissistic bosses of present day to deal with in comparison. OUR LIVES WERE IN DANGER FOR REAL, NO ORGANIZED CIVILIZATION, IT WAS ANARCHY OUT THERE! No time to stop and have a think for 30 seconds…. Is it or is it not a poisonous snake, that rustle in the grass 2 meters from me?? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ …. BETTER TO JUST RUN FOR YOUR LIFE OR ATTACK IT BEFORE IT STRIKES EVERY SINGLE TIME….. Even if it was just a rustle of grass and nothing more 99/100, it was best to be on high alert always just in case. It was not an angry telling off from the boss, IT WAS LIFE OR DEATH!
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The brain created patterns that helped it best survive… Grass moves so REACT!!! Neurons fired, strengthening each time the same fearful scenarios occurred each day until eventually… AUTOMATIC process every single day.. RUN or FIGHT without having to think about it consciously anymore. However, over 24 hours, way too many potentially life threatening situations, short and long term… IF OUR ANCESTORS STOPPED TO THINK…. WE WOULD HAVE ERASED OURSELVES FROM THE GENE POOL, BEING FOOD FOR THOSE PREDATORS. The reactive quick fear signalling area of the brain that was constantly on alert is called the AMYGDALA. It’s an alarm bell that triggers our emotions and fight or flight response. It’s only in the last 3000 years that we have began a process of thinking about thinking, asking questions and in addition to quick reactive, fearful and alert brain, begin to contemplate that maybe there are far more efficient ways to cope with life and its various obstacles and dangers. Modern day philosophy was born… In evolutionary terms though, thinking about thinking is at it’s baby steps, 3000 years of modern day contemplation is nothing in the vast, literally hundreds of thousands of years of fight / flight reactive brain evolving.
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So today, still in our early days of introspection…. for example, if the referee gives a penalty against our team, we are more than likely going to scream at him “F*CK OFF REF, YOU BLIND B*ST*RD!” rather than seeking out analysis of why he made that specific decision. Amygdala firing intensely as it’s still very much the kingpin inside of our brain heavily set in place due to our very scary anarchic history… 3000 years on from those early philosophers though, we have actually taken huge leaps forward, we are grasping the stepping back and having a think about things process, guided by reason, appreciating facts and evidence and therefore slowly understanding that the unfamiliar faces, sounds and circumstances we come across daily are not actually going to kill us, things aren’t as bad as the naturally reactive amygdala suggests to us, constantly stuck thinking it still lives in a highly dangerous world… We do not yet understand collectively or even aware that an amygdala is still on red alert… continually triggering the process of reactivity but in a modern, less threatening organized world where it does not really need to be so scared and therefore the unfortunate monotony of irrational reactions and defensive brain pattern forming automatically just as times past, on and on and on as neurons in the area strengthen and fear ridden memory formed and set in place, the brain creating mind to react same / similar to each unfamiliar scenario life offers each time… Actions and thoughts repetitive and part of our identity,ย  our innocent ignorance and the continuation generation after generation.
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The amygdala has triggered the creation of hundreds of religions, another example, of which are simply coping mechanisms and present day the amygdala’s continual reactivity helps to sustain those irrational / defensive / comforting belief systems that formed and became automatic survival patterns without having to think beyond the effortless indoctrination passed down generation after generation, integrated within culture with way too many weird and wonderful claims, flying horses to heaven with virgins waiting, virgin births, walking on water, and healing the dead, just scratching the surface of what the amygdala can do, triggering creativity from the fear responses it generated… I’m curious to know of how we develop further in the next 3000 years though.
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The amygdala as we know it, through education, experience and scientific advancements may be tamed right down and other areas of the brain that deal with rational thought and contemplation and from there triggering enhanced compassion may develop and neuronal patterns can go on to strengthen and expand in those brain regions instead (frontal lobe). Unfortunately in 2017 we are nowhere near that potentially peaceful state yet… ๐Ÿ™‚ but it’s only a natural process of evolution, therefore no one is really to blame for reactive stupidity when observing from the context of evolutionary time scales. We are very much controlled by our AMYGDALA….. If we can observe the process, get more of an understanding of how our brain creates mind, that very process of observation itself may just help us speed up the taming of the amygdala. Until then, try and enjoy your roller coaster fight or flight journey! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
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Now piss off, I have work to do! ….. Woops, sorry! ๐Ÿ˜‰ย 
By Panayiotis stavrou
[Video source: Big Thinkย YouTube link]

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