the amygdala: the brain’s fear centre


in the illustration above, you’ll notice that the eyeballs (neutral receptors) pick up the snake, signaling directly to the thalamus (relayer), which then sends the signal simultaneously to the amygdala (fear brain)  and the cortex (rational).

a spilt second after the amygdala receives the information from the thalamus, it wastes no time in sending a danger response to the hypothalamus (body regulator), which then triggers the pituitary (chemical reaction centre) to send the body into fight or flight mode.  

the body’s responses are then fed back to the thalamus/cortex/amygdala and so we end up with a domino effect, reticulating nervous system, (loop).

notice the green signal from the amygdala to the brain stem, (by-passing the cortex, directly to the hypothalamus).  

if instead of a real snake, the eyes detected a stick that only resembled a snake, the amygdala would still send your heart racing, and there in lies the problem, because the amygdala can’t discern between what is a threat and what might be a threat.  it takes no chances.  whereas the cortex might spend an extra fraction of a second to decide if the threat is real, but the amygdala has already set the reticulating effect into play.

so the trade off is between a split second quicker reaction, at the expense of what might be the most appropriate action to take.

for example, your amygdala might hold a belief that being alone is a life threatening situation, maybe a carry over from being left alone too long as a baby, so that in a situation where your partner wanted to go out with a group of friends without you, the amygdala could pick up a message that you will be alone, and would then believe this is going to be a significant danger, because that’s what the earlier experience of being alone felt like.

this could lead to all sorts of problems in that relationship, including jealousy and retaliation.  this could be the start of a self-fulfilling prophecy where the partner gets tired of not being trusted and actually leaves the relationship.

to the person feeling the pain of jealousy and abandonment, it’s very hard to believe that there is no real danger.

so how do you break the cycle?  first of all it’s important to know that the amygdala operates on the automatic sub-conscious level of the spectrum of consciousness.*  so that is where the fear needs to be treated, not on the conscious level.  It is a feeling problem, not a thought problem.  

the way to treat this level of your consciousness is by using the right tools, if you want to solve a conscious rational problem, you would use rationale or logic, but with the amygdala, it requires the very gentle, non-threatening approach of a guided meditation.

no prior knowledge or experience of meditation is needed, as you will be guided through the process by the facilitator.  

there is no need to know what situations created the feelings in the first place, because that would be a rational way of understanding it, whereas the only real knowledge needed is the identification of the feeling itself.

using The Release Effect approach, it’s very easy to identify the feelings, whereas using logical/rational methods you might never identify them.

once the feelings are identified - in three gentle and relaxing Release Effect sessions - you can let them go or release them from your sub-conscious. the best thing is that “it works”.