Yesterday morning, when I was fighting to fly to work on time, I froze when I saw this:
The fight, flight or freeze response of cave dwellers can ruin modern life.
Before I read that article by Kate Murphy in the New York Times, I knew it would echo many things I’ve been telling my patients for years, including:
- fear and its companion — the fight, flight or freeze response — can save us from danger,
- however, the level of fear we experience today is based on the realities of the distant past — the danger-filled lives of our cave-dwelling ancestors who lived under constant threat of invading tribes and wild animals, and
- that level of fear interferes with modern life.
Here’s a quote from that article:
“Change has occurred so rapidly for our species that now we are equipped with brains that are super sensitive to threat but also super capable of planning, thinking, forecasting and looking ahead,” said Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “So we essentially drive ourselves nuts worrying about things because we have too much time and don’t have many real threats on our survival, so fear gets expressed in these really strange, maladaptive ways.”
I don’t want to drive ourselves nuts by spending too much time on that article here, but I recommend you read the whole thing. And I do want to include a few more quotes from the article before another flight into photography.
- Consciously activating the more measured, analytical part of your brain is the key to controlling runaway fear and anxiety.
- Arresting an overactive amygdala requires first realizing and then admitting you’re feeling uneasy and scared.
- “The more you try to suppress fear, either by ignoring it or doing something else to displace it, the more you will actually experience it.”
The amygdala is less apt to freak out if you are reminded that you are loved or could be loved. For example, seeing images of people with frightened expressions is usually a huge trigger for the amygdala, but that response is greatly diminished when subjects are first shown pictures of people being cared for or hugged.
Just as fear can be contagious, so can courage, caring and calm.
How did those photos affect your modern life?
Before you take flight from this post, I will fight to express my main reason for taking that last photo — it reminded me of the song “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along:
To make this our time rather than the time of cave dwellers, let’s do our best to focus on courage, caring, and calm.
Modern thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — to YOU.
When I see the word amygdala, I’m afraid there’s still so much in this world I don’t know anything at all about, Ann.