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Dramatically Reduce Your Anixety 2.

Chapter 1. Understand Your Anxiety.





When we really understand something we have a sense of comforting familiarity, a sense of

control and are far more likely to be positively inclined towards “that thing”. The same is true

of our feelings and emotions. Anxiety often creeps up on us, it grows silently in the

background until it becomes problematic and interferes with our daily lives. Understanding

its function is so important as this is a big part of the reframe where you see that you really

do need some levels of Anxiety. It is part of our evolutionary psychology that keeps us alive

as human beings. Remember, we were not always apex predators. We were hunted by other

animals hundreds of thousands of years ago and those feelings of fear and Anxiety are our

brain functioning to keep us aware of those dangers. The trouble is Anxiety becomes elevated

seemingly for no reason when there isn’t a lion outside our door.


Neuroscientists have explored different parts of the brain function and locate Anxiety largely

in our primitive brains. As humans we have evolved more advanced parts of the brain with a

more advanced consciousness as well – this is the prefrontal cortex. The blob, if you like, at

the front of the brain. From this part of the brain comes humankinds’ best advances – art,

science, discoveries, music and so on. This is why we can go to the cinema and enjoy films

whereas, say, squirrels, cannot. But...we still have that primitive brain and it is this part where

Anxiety is located. The amygdala is the central part of our primitive brain and functions like

an alarm system. Actually to be correct we have a pair of Amygdalae but most people talk

about “the amygdala”. It is constantly scanning for danger and this is great. Why? Well it’s

the reason you are still alive no less, able to read this. It is still there, though, in the

background ready to be set off by a door that opens too quickly. It will be heightened when

you are walking down dark streets in London in the early hours of the morning.

So let’s really grasp this, at the risk of labouring a point, Anxiety is essential. Without it we

would walk blithely out into roads, swim in those shark infested waters, glibly rush up that

ladder without a care in the world. We need it to survive, to stay alive. So if the amygdalae

are like an alarm system the problem is when that alarm system is set off for no reason and

this is the Anxiety disorder. The siren is blaring or whining when it doesn’t need to. It becomes

annoying, distracting and gets in the way of our enjoyment of life even when there is no

imminent threat. This has sometimes been referred to as “amygdala hijack”. The primitive

brain taking control when there is no need for it to do so. We need it there when we are facing

a real and present danger but need it to quieten down when we are not.


So what we need is for the primitive brain not to be in the driving seat. We need the more

advanced part of our brain to have control and to be driving us around. To put it more

formally, we need the intelligent / conscious part of our brain to have executive function.

When that part of the brain is in control it can quieten down the alarm, turn it off even. But

how do we actually do that?


Practical Steps


• Start to see your Anxiety as a positive.

• See Anxiety as an integral part of your survival instinct.

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