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amygdala

Our body’s emergency control centre – the amygdala. The amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped structures on the left and right of the brain’s medial temporal lobe, is particularly involved in emotional memories like fear, but also in pleasurable memories associated with food, sex, or recreational drug use. When a memory is particularly striking and unexpected, it activates this emotional memory system.

Nice article on fear and memory and some research on how to change memory.

They talk of giving beta blockers within 6 hours of a traumatic event (being used by the Israeli army) or stimulating the fear response some time later and then giving beta blockers (done on rats and a small human study). The beta blockers down regulate sympathetic activity. The goal is to uncouple the memory from the fear response.

Cranial touch, presence and being in relationship whilst someone is meeting the edge of a difficult memory could perform the same role as beta blockers.

  • “This suggests, says Phelps, that flashbulb memories differ from memories of more neutral events not because the details of the memory are preserved any better, but because we think they are. “With highly traumatic events we think we have this incredibly accurate memory,” she says. The truth is, many of the details we think are accurate are not. “Emotion focuses your attention on a few details, at the expense of a lot of others,”
  • We’re not changing your knowledge of what happened. We’re just changing its association with these fight or flight stress responses that we get”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150205-how-extreme-fear-shapes-the-mind

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Like the snake video, the above video captures some essential elements of hardwired trauma responses. Notice how stiff the mouse is at the start of the video. I am increasingly appreciating how stiffness is a good early sign of immobilisation. Before I was only focussed on the loss of muscle tone as a cardinal sign, in fact both can hyper and hypo myofascial tone can occur in immobilisation.

Why does the mouse attack the cat as it comes out of immobility? Two passages from Peters Levine’s excellent new book ‘In An Unspoken Voice’ give an explanation:

As They Go In, So They Come Out: The Rage Connection

‘Similarly, when a well-fed household cat catches a mouse, the latter, restrained by the cat’s paws, stops moving and becomes limp. Without resistance from the mouse, the cat becomes bored and will sometimes gently bat the inert animal, seemingly trying to revive it and restart the game anew (not unlike Jimmy Stewart slapping his swooning heroine to bring her out of her faint). With each reawakening, chasing and reactivated terror, the mouse goes deeper and longer into immobility. When it does eventually revive, it frequently darts away so quickly (and unpredictably) that it may even startle the cat. This sudden, non-directed burst of energy could just as easily cause it to run at the cat, as well as away from it. I have even seen a mouse ferociously attack the nose of an astounded cat. Such is the nature of exit from imrnobility, where induction has been repetitive and accompanied by fear and rage. Humans, in addition, reterrorize themselves out of their (misplaced) fear of their own intense sensations and emotions.

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Amazing illustration of the mobilisation and immobilisation phases of the overwhelm response. Initially aggressive and quick, but when its head is trapped and there are no options for escape the snake goes limp and plays dead.

If you ask me, playing with snakes and spitting out the venom they have managed to spit into your mouth is slightly too interesting a way of earning a living. Just saying.

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