Continued from “Where do the Monsters under your bed REALLY live?”
Out of the Dungeon at Last
We got the edge over reptiles when our mammalian midbrain evolved and produced the hippocampus. The hippocampus has a horseshoe shape and lies right next to the amygdala. It allows us to make practical common sense decisions, rather than run on instincts alone.
The first task of the hippocampus’ is to show who is boss – it must shut down the amygdala so that our powerful instincts are inhibited. When our hippocampus takes charge we are transformed into intelligent beings who come up with logical and creative solutions to the challenges of everyday living. It’s your hippocampus that helps you figure out how persuade your wife to buy a brand new top of the range car! Or wrangle your way out of a socially awkward moment. Your hippocampus remembers your past experiences and helps you make rational and practical decisions in the present moment.
When our hippocampus is in charge, we can take the time to contemplate the best course of action. We are not driven by our emotions. It helps you have an altercation with an old foe without losing your temper or feeling intimidated. Instead you listen to what he has to say, you take your time, think the matter over and respond with a positive solution when you are ready. You have a natural ease and confidence. You are not rushed. You stay in control.
Only when we are faced with a very serious crisis will our amygdala grab back control and dominate the hippocampus. Once this switch has taken place we are running on adrenaline, ready to react with our fight, flight, or freeze instincts. At this point we are no longer sensible and rational, but reactive and defensive. Our emotions drive us. We are impulsive, feel pressed for time, on the back foot. We are on an emotional rollercoaster as we repeatedly cycle through anger and rage, fear and panic, apathy and hopelessness.
Unless we can turn the switch back to our more evolved and mature hippocampus, we are at the mercy of our amygdala: hypervigilant, stressed, overwhelmed and out of sorts, burning out from too much adrenaline. This is the time when we reach for a drink, dump our problems on longsuffering friends and meditate for a thousand hours – desperate for relief and praying for self control.
Human suffering comes from our amygdala. When we hurtle through fear, anger grief, hopelessness and overwhelm and feel out of control it means our amygdala is in overdrive.
Thanks to your amygdala you gave your very first cry on the day you were born. And cried for help whenever you were scared or angry. The amygdala is part of your primitive brain that produces reflexes like breathing and sucking.
Evolution has given us a brain with both primitive and ‘modern’ parts. We start out using the primitive parts in infancy and as we mature and grow up we get to use the more evolved modern parts.
By the time we turn four we are no longer relying on infant reflexes for survival – our hippocampus wires up and for the first time we can control our emotions.
Instead of crying, we can decide to talk to mommy and ask for her help. Our hippocampus also lets us remember the past, so we can reminisce about our favourite teacher, best friend and fun times we had with our brothers and sisters.
As our brain matures we get access to more brain real estate. By the time we reach 25years of age we reach the jewel in the crown, our frontal lobes.
Call Now! 0414414286
Suite 204/ 6-8 Clarke Str, Crows Nest 2065 (short walk from St. Leonards railway station)
Locations Now Conveniently Available In Crows Nest, Dulwich Hill, Randwick, Camden & Windsor.