my amygdala detects a threat--attack!

Ack!  It's happened again!

Today at lunch I was so excited to write tonight's blog--I had it all composed in my head... and then I sat in traffic for two hours, had an emotional experience involving So You Think You Can Dance and waffles, came up with at least 4 new ideas... and I'm home, and I have the material, and I'm finding myself going to do other things instead of blogging again.  WTF is that about?

You know what I think it's about?  I think it's about the ideas... yeah the traffic was exhausting, but it's over, and the SYTYCD moment with the waffle was emotional, but it was cleansing... I think it's really the ideas.  I was excited about my idea at lunch when that was my present idea, but now I've had several more and I've slowed to a stop from my own momentum.  eek!

So, I write all of my ideas down... and I have for years.  But then I go back to look at them and I can't remember what the notes mean.  It's not the greatest system, but apparently it is one I have had since I was old enough for my handwriting to look like it does on the inside cover of this journal..  
my idea journal... circa 1992 (?)
I did something yesterday that renewed my energy for this and reminded me about how fulfilling this path is... I was having a crappy day and feeling worn down and after making this video and telling someone else about how I got here and where I want to go next I was completely reinvigorated...  and that just gave me more ideas.  Argh!

Okay, enough whining.  I don't have a solution right now, so I'm just going to dive into this "month" and see where it takes me.

I started reading a new book last night, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights by Daniel Goleman, and I'm so glad I did!  It's exactly what I've been craving...  I really need to make friends with more scientists... particularly neuroscientists.  Know any?

Here's what I'm learning so far:

Not only are there parts of our brain, that when scanned, can predict what kind of mood we are likely to be in more often than not... there are brain styles that determine how quickly we become upset, how quickly recovery from distress, and even depth of feeling (yep, some people FEEL their feelings more than others... I knew it!)

Neuroscience lesson of the week!
There's this part of the brain called the amygdala that I think is significant enough to warrant all sorts of attention on clever t-shirt designs (see, more ideas...).

Why?  The amygdala is the place where our emotions come from.

The interesting (read: ridiculous) part about this is that this emotion factory is a part of our primitive brain; the part that is responsible for our survival, and reacts as such.
hi, amygdala... it's nice to finally meet you.  i can't tell you how much i've been impacted by your work.

"If the amygdala detects a threat, in an instant it can take over the rest of the brain... and we have what's called an amygdala hijack."

Okay, well that explains a lot.

"During a hijack, we can't learn, and we rely on over-learned habits, ways we've behaved time and time again.  We can't innovate or be flexible during a hijack"


"There's one big problem with all this: the amygdala often makes mistakes."

Okay wait... so the place in my brain from which my emotions originate has the power to take over all of the rest of my brain and it does so on a whim... and is frequently misinformed?!  It sounds like we all have a teenage girl in our brain who is basically running the show... Terrifying.

The good news: we can minimize hijacks.  We can sedate the teenage girl with frappucinos and mall shopping and keep her quiet.  Only in this case, the drinks and trips are cognitive approaches (basically, talking yourself out of it and/or employing empathy) and mindfulness.  The key: early intervention (see, it really is like dealing with teenagers--or so I suspect, I try to avoid them).

Remember though, when we're in the midst of an amygdala hijack our ability to try new things or be flexible or creative is limited... which means we better be practicing these things consistently while our teenage girl is at school or listening to her iPod so we're ready when she comes out of her room.

The cool part about all of this... I can totally teach you how to get out of an amygdala hijack.  yay me! (and you, because you know me!  ...and you're great for other reasons too!)

On that note, I'm going to go meditate.