Tickle Your Amygdala, An Exclusive for Viewzone from the book "Tickle Your Amygdala" by Neil Slade © 2013 (Neil Slade Books)
1. THE QUESTION
The perennial question all human beings ask themselves is this: How do I get there?
It doesn't matter whether you are seeking Nirvana, the perfect romance, a good job, a decent meal, personal fulfillment, junk food at 7-11, the sub-atomic equations that explain the way the universe works, or God's home address -- the one basic universal essential question underneath every other existing question is always the same. It is a matter of direction.
You are at Point A and you are trying to get to Point B, or Point C, or M, or Z, or Point %#$. There are an infinite number of possibilities from which to choose. You know that some possibilities lead to a dead end, some lead to Points Unknown that you haven't even imagined yet, some lead you around in circles back to where you started, and some lead you to your envisioned goal.
So it is, the underlying question at the foundation of every other question is a matter of direction. The essential unified field query underneath every other inquiry to find IT is this: "Which way do I go?"
If one only had a dependable compass, a tool that was always and instantly at one's fingertips day and night. How handy it would be if each person would be born with an internal Brain Radar Global Positioning System that never ran out of battery power, as dependable as one's heartbeat... always pointing the right direction.
Alas, the endless cascade of decisions, "Do I do this or that?" and it's twin sister, "Do I go this way or that way?" need perplex you no longer!
As it turns out, a little bit of old-fashioned self-reflection with a little bit of new 21st Century basic neurology thrown in demonstrates that human beings indeed have such a fail-safe directional system always at their disposal.
Such a compass sits right in the middle of your brain, irregardless of your income, social status, or for that matter whatever environment you may find yourself in. It is your amygdala.
The great cosmic joke is that the amygdala and what it does has been a non-secret since amygdala started appearing in the brains of mammals over 65 million years ago. The proverbial jest on the human race is that old Zen predicament of dying of thirst while swimming across a lake -- we just never bothered to pay any attention to what was literally right under our noses.
2. AMYGDALA PRIMER
The amygdala is part of a brain circuit that quickly tells you which way to go -- when you need to know it. It tells you via emotional feedback exactly what is bad for you and also what is good for you... which way to go. This brain circuit computes:
*Unpleasant Emotions as Deterrent (Not this way)
Here is a photograph of a real human brain outside its container along with a couple of real amygdalae. I know this looks kind of gross, but I want to make sure readers of this book know that I am not a lunatic and just making all this stuff up.
You have two amygdala in your brain, but they both pretty much do the same thing. So generally, people just say the singular "amygdala" to refer to them both.
The purpose of the amygdala is relatively simple: it is a brain shortcut to quickly engage automatic brain responses so you correctly respond to threats -- such as seeing a rattlesnake in the middle of your path.
When you perceive a threat, the amygdala instantly clicks your brain into fight-or-flight response, faster than you can say "Get me outta here!"
When you sense a threat -- either from hearing it, seeing it, or smelling it, your body instantly reacts and clicks your primitive non-thinking lower "reptile brain" functions into high gear with increased blood flow, strength, and reaction time so you can protect yourself or run like heck. (That's what is meant by "fight or flight" response).
But the amygdala just doesn't have a backward negative click position -- it also has a forward "amygdala tickle" position.
That means that when you perceive a positive situation, the amygdala responds with reward and pleasurable emotions to automatically attract you towards things that you know are good for you -- faster than you can see, "Gimme a big fat kiss!" or "Lemme have a bit of 'dat cupcake!"
3. PREHISTORIC HISTORY OF THE AMYGDALA
You are a complex living organism. Unlike an amoeba that only lives about as long as a couple of old episodes of "I Love Lucy" or the time it takes you to drive to the dry cleaners and back, you stick around for a relatively longer period of time, plenty of time to get into lots of trouble.
The complexity of you started long before the advent of even crummy looking black and white TV programs, something like sixty-five million years ago. This was when Mama Nature started equipping Earth mammals with a brain that could perform more kinds of tricks than what a peanut-sized dinosaur's brain could. We know what happened to the dinosaurs, and it wasn't so good.
The mammals, on the other hand, thrived and survived to this day, to make pests of themselves behind your kitchen stove (mice) but also by running for government jobs every couple of years.
One of the reasons for the long success of mammals is a little bit inside the mammal brain that allows furry creatures to experience emotions.. Obviously, this emotional brain area is not always functional, as observed in those upright humanoid brains that would cut off funding for badly needed social service programs without blinking an eyelash. But otherwise, inside this part of the brain is a working little gold nugget of neurophysiology that provides a primary function in the service of species survival.
Inside the emotional part of this furry mammal brain is a central hub. It is called, you guessed it:
Your dog has an amygdala, a ferret has one, a mouse has one, and so does an anteater. And of course, you do too.
The amygdala gets its name, meaning "nut" in Greek, because it looks something like an almond or a walnut. As previously shown, you've got two of them, one in each side of your head, one for each hemisphere of your brain.
The amygdala is a hub for forming, retrieving, and processing emotions. It is connected to other major parts of the brain. This includes the core reactive parts which regulate basic body functions as well as the most advanced parts of the brain responsible for complex thoughts, abstract and creative thought, and social behaviors.
The interaction of all of these areas of the brain results in your emotional response to sights, sounds, sensations, as well as more complex ideas and cues. Thus, when we sense a threat, our amygdala instantly engages negative emotions such as fear and repulsion. Conversely, when we sense a positive reward, our amygdala instantly engages pleasurable attraction.
To a large extent, we make our decisions largely dependent upon how we feel emotionally about one thing or another. Emotions are a neural shortcut that helps you to quickly discern what is good for you and what is bad for you before you stick your finger in a hot flame or before you bite into that yummy looking cupcake.
Your amygdala lets you quickly react to danger and avoid it. At the same time your amygdala and your emotions can quickly identify what is good for you and you can embrace such things. In this sense, your amygdala and your emotions can be seen as a rudimentary brain compass that employs "Emotional Magnetics".
At the most fundamental level, you are attracted to those things for which you feel positive emotions and you are repelled by those things for which you feel negative emotions. This magnetic compass is in the middle of your brain.
By no coincidence, the amygdala is actually connected directly to your olfactory nerves, and your sense of smell. You can easily observe how odors can trigger emotions simply by taking a whiff of something you enjoy, and comparing how you feel when you smell something you do not.
That's your amygdala telling you to run towards fresh buttered popcorn wafting out of the bowl sitting on your kitchen counter and telling you to run away from the moldy yogurt that is crawling out of your refrigerator next to it.
In the same way that a mammal can smell danger or food far in advance of being face to face with it, your amygdala serves as an "early warning system" so that you can respond long before you understand something. Your amygdala in this sense helps you to "sniff out" threats and rewards, even when you haven't yet figured out why you might like or loathe something.
This emotional evaluation that you make of things that cross your path happens instantly through your amygdala, faster than you can rationally think about such things. That's why you still have an amygdala and why it's never been discarded into the evolutionary garbage heap.
4. EMOTIONAL MAGNETICS
The amygdala uses EMOTIONAL MAGNETICS to indicate Life Direction towards or away from good things you enjoy and help you live a good life.
Did you ever wonder why some things make you feel good and why other things make you feel bad? Here's the reason:
Positive-Pleasure emotions ATTRACT us to those things that keep us alive.
Negative Emotions REPEL us away from those things that harm us. Here is one example of how it works:
1) When you were little, you burned your finger on the stove and it FELT BAD.
2) Your amygdala learned that a lit stove burner + finger is not a healthy thing.
3) So, from that point on, your amygdala gives you FEAR when you sense your finger is too near a hot stove flame.
4) You are REPELLED by things that look too hot for your finger.
This means that you can avoid hot things without getting burned every time. Thus, your amygdala's Emotional Magnetics REPEL you from harmful looking things before you stick your finger in 'em. That's quite a handy thing.
When your direction is AWAY from Chocolate Cream Pie, life flow is reduced. You are going in the wrong direction, your amygdala gets bitten, and you feel bad. This is like being sent to your bedroom without dessert.
When your amygdala gets bitten you feel like you are going down the drain.
FEELING GOOD EMOTIONS show Energy Direction Towards yummy things in life- Amygdala gives you "YUM!"
Positive Emotions attract us towards those things that help us. Here is one example of how it works:
1) Mom smiles and then hugs and feeds you, and you FEEL GOOD.
2) Your amygdala learns Mom Smile + Hugs and Yummy Food is healthy.
3) So, from that point on, your amygdala gives you HAPPY when you see Mom smile.
4) You are then ATTRACTED by things that look like Mom smiling.
Thus, your amygdala's Emotional Magnetics automatically attract you towards helpful looking things. That's also very handy. And it feels good. This advance positive brain signal is an Amygdala Tickle.
If you are getting an Amygdala Tickle, you are going in the right direction, and L.I.F.E. is delicious.
When your direction is towards something good, you feel good, and your amygdala is being tickled. Your amygdala compass is indicating through positive emotions that you are headed in the right way, towards where you want to go.
5. YOUR AMYGDALA NEEDS GLASSES
Although the amygdala is a good compass at steering you towards goodies and away from garbage, it is quite terrible at predicting what lies beyond your senses. For example, a mouse has a perfectly functioning amygdala reward circuit that temptingly leads it directly to a hunk of cheese -- clamped to the trigger plate of a fatal mousetrap.
A poor mouse can smell the allure of a tasty and nutritious meal behind the refrigerator, and is drawn to it like a juicy worm on the end of a fishing line, but it doesn't have the brain power to figure out that the wire contraption that offers it serves it as this furry victim's last supper.
To see how one hunk of cheese plus one spring wire equals the end of the road requires a more complex brain than a mouse is supplied with.
By itself, the amygdala is rather shortsighted. You need glasses or brain binoculars to always correctly see what your amygdala will be indicating in the long run.
To see the difference between something that looks good on the surface and what is in store in the end game requires a sufficiently powerful brain capable of seeing more than what just looks and smells good to the dumb part of your brain. It requires more than mouse brain power. Fortunately, if you are reading this sentence you have been supplied with such a brain.
This advanced part of your brain capable of computing Cooperation, Imagination, Creativity, Intuition, and Logic (C.I.C.I.L.) is called your frontal lobes.
Your frontal lobes can allow you to work together with another individual (cooperation), it can allow you to see things beyond the reach of your senses (imagination), it can help you to come up with new solutions to old problems (creativity), it can tap into abilities that extend beyond your simple reason (intuition), and it can add two plus two and a whole lot more (logic).
The beauty of the frontal lobes is that they can predict what your amygdala compass is going to be reading -- beyond this present moment of time.
The frontal lobes can learn not only from your past, but from the history of others and they can project into the future.
Unlike a mouse's brain, your human frontal lobes -- when engaged -- can figure out that a piece of cheddar cheese connected to the jaws of a steel sprung wire will give you a bloody finger if you grab at it carelessly. Unlike a trout, your frontal lobes can figure out that a delicious looking worm on a hook may not taste so good after you bite it.
Your frontal lobes can alert you that all good things do not come in pretty packages, and that sometimes the best treats are plainly wrapped.
Further, it can also see that a little tiny acorn contains within it the potential of a giant oak.
So it is, your magical frontal lobes can tell you not only if your amygdala is being tickled today- but if it will be tickled far down the road.
6. BEHIND THE CURTAIN
So it is, you -- human being -- with marvelous frontal lobes capable of complex analysis, that can see beyond what is two inches in front of your nose.
And this is the conundrum. Your amygdala is connected and can be "seen" to both your pre-stone-age reptile brain that can't tell a mousetrap from a clothespin, but it is also connected to your advanced space age frontal lobes capable of building starships.
It sits inside your brain squarely in between the automatic-reactive circuits of your brain stem and your pre-frontal cortex.
If your amygdala compass says, "Go this way!", your reptile brain sends you scurrying off in that direction. And if all you're listening to is your reptile brain, you may be joining the march of millions of other lemmings launching themselves right off the edge of the cliffs of Dover.
On the other hand, your frontal lobes will tell you, "Hold on just a second, let's be sure about this."
The overall quality of your life, in the long run, depends on whether or not you are engaging your frontal lobes to interact with your amygdala or whether you are wholly being controlled by nothing more than the automatic responses of your primitive reptile brain.
That smiling man behind the curtain and that gorgeous lady right up on center stage in front of you understands how your brain works. They are aware of the fact that you have an amygdala that instantly reacts to certain cues, and powerfully guides you towards one thing and away from another.
They want your reptile brain shouting so loud that it completely drowns out any intelligent conversation that your frontal lobes may be trying to get in.
So you are bombarded with slogans, pictures, and cues that instantly communicate and trigger your amygdala through your primitive reptile brain and would have you buy things that you don't need and have you indulge in things that are not good for you. Your amygdala is instantly catapulted into reaction by those who want your dollars and your vote- and you don't even realize it.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED!! BUY ME!!
SEXY! POWERFUL! YUMMY YUM! YUM! YUM!
We know how that turns out.
On top of this, the force of cultural conformity is a strong one. For the longest time people believed that the entire universe revolved around the Earth, that the Sun and all the stars in the heavens all circled us alone on the dinner table of creation.
At one point, Copernicus and Galileo offered the opposing opinion that this wasnâ€™t true, and that the Earth and the planets actually revolved around the sun, in a much bigger and grander scale.
At first, this made people laugh and say -- "Oh that Galileo! What a dope!" Eventually the big brains convinced the little brains about the big picture.
If you are only looking at your amygdala compass with your measly reptile brain, you are no better off than that mouse drooling over the aroma of that hunk of cheese two inches in front of its nose. And you are missing the really big prize.
Which part of your brain is looking at your amygdala? Are you seeing outside the box?
7. THE BIG PICTURE
Quantum physics tells us this: Reality is affected by the observer. In other words, the results you see are dependent upon where you are looking and who is doing the observation.
In the brain the same principal applies, and it is especially relevant when considering what your amygdala compass is telling you.
Your amygdala is connected to your primitive brain and your senses -- so it will give you immediate feedback in relation to things that are right in front of you. In a general sense, it works pretty well. You avoid stuff that looks and smells bad and you are attracted towards stuff that looks and smells good.
But unless you are willing to walk into every mousetrap that comes your way, you have to use more than a mouse sized portion of your brain.
Fortunately, your amygdala is also connected to your frontal lobes, which can tell you what lies ahead down the road and around the bend. Your frontal lobes can tell you the consequences of your actions and the effects of those people and things around you. In doing so, the picture that the amygdala compass reacts to additionally engaged with your frontal lobes is a bigger picture with a more global perspective.
In this way, although your reptile brain may give your amygdala a small view of things, your frontal lobes Big Magic Eye will supply your amygdala with a 360 degree picture of the universe -- a picture that will serve you far better in the long run, and results in a more accurate compass reading.
8. TICKLE YOUR AMYGDALA
The difference between you and that mouse is this:
Because you have big frontal lobes, not only can you see around the corner and what will happen if you tug at a given piece of cheddar, when it's safe and when it's not, you can also change the direction you are facing and going.
A mouse is ruled by its amygdala.
When your amygdala is biting and indicating to you wrong direction, your frontal lobes can calculate a change in direction so that your amygdala then gets tickled instead of bitten.
You can tickle your amygdala at any time using your frontal lobes -- no matter what is happening outside of your brain. Instead of being controlled by Stuff that Happens to Happen -- you can TICKLE YOUR AMYGDALA to feel GOOD!
Here's how it works...
Your frontal lobes can instantly change and rotate the direction your Amygdala Compass is pointing- From Bad Direction to Good Direction.
1) The amygdala is hardwired in the brain to BITE when you are going the wrong way, and to TICKLE when you are going the right way.
2) Your frontal lobes can see which direction your Amygdala Compass is pointing by evaluating your Emotional Magnetic Direction -- positive or negative emotion.
3) If you are pointing the wrong way, your frontal lobes allows you to intelligently adjust your interior and exterior direction -- no matter what else going on around you.
4) You re-align with the L.I.F.E. direction and face in the direction of survival and happiness and go that way... by changing YOUR direction.
You make lemonade out of lemons..
Instead of just watching your amygdala twirl and spin at random like a tornado on a crummy one channel Reptile Brain TV set...
Your advanced frontal lobes allow you to tune into any station on the INFINITY DIAL. You can pick out a much better program any time you wish.
How can you steer your L.I.F.E. mobile and follow the direction of your Amygdala Master Compass so it points towards survival and happiness??
Your amygdala is tickled when it sees you are going in the direction of SURVIVAL --which automatically happens when you are using enough
When your amygdala is tickled, this allows more energy to easily flow into your Big Smart Frontal Lobes. When your frontal lobes are happily at work, that tickles your amygdala even more.
It's a HAPPY CIRCLE OF BRAIN ENERGY
Frontal Lobes COOPERATION
Togetherness is more fun, smarter and better than being alone.
Tickles Your Amygdala:
Partner Family Planet
Tickles Your Amygdala:
Imagine a FEATHER tickling your amygdala
Ha ha ha!
Tickles Your Amygdala:
You see the effects of TIME.
Lets you plan ahead
Frontal Lobes CREATIVITY
You can see things in novel, fresh, new, and different ways than before.
Solves problems in unique NEW WAYS.
You combine things as never before.
(Like creating a chocolate covered sledge hammer that you can eat
Frontal Lobes INTUITION
It turns on
The Right Time
At the Right Place
With The Right Solution
Just like Magic.
Frontal Lobes INTUITION
Beyond Words - Beyond Time - Beyond Space
Puts you Right On TARGET
Understanding Beyond Words
Tickles Your Amygdala:
You can focus on how things fit together one piece at a time
Lets you add things up in a linear way, in a row
1 + 1 + 1 = 3
CAUSE and EFFECT
Frontal Lobes C.I.C.I.L.
and always find your
TICKLE YOUR AMYGDALA
by using the smartest and biggest part of your brain,
Your Frontal Lobes
To move A-HEAD
in the RIGHT DIRECTION
Ultimately, the answer to any question one may have -- "Which way do I go?" -- is fun-di-mentally very simple. You want to move in the direction that enhances your survival, that makes you feel good, that supplies you with reward and that tickles your amygdala for the long haul.
After all, these are all the same thing.
Your amygdala compass instantly tells you if you are moving in the right direction. Your frontal lobes will insure that you are on the highway to your goal, or will warn you in the case that your amygdala will be bitten around the bend.
Simply, the solution is to follow your amygdala -- and tickle it with your frontal lobes, not just for the moment, but as far as you can see... and that could be very far out, indeed.
Illustrated by N. Slade; Thanks to Gary Vey for Color, Brain Lightning and Bun
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