Friday, December 16, 2016

Every Day Millions of People Leave the Earth Taking with Them Everything they Learned

When I had my 70th birthday, I threw myself a "Celebration of Decrepitude" because I thought I'd earned it.  70 years is a vast amount of time in people years.  In those decades there have been complex, daunting situations I couldn't escape from.  No choice.  I just had to live through them.  At no time in the past had I had any instructions for how to handle such situations. 

When my dad stepped out onto the back steps of his and my mother's house after the tornado and saw that the house next door where my mother and her mother had been and saw that it was completely gone, he said, "I just sat down on the steps and waited for someone to come and tell me what to do.  I had never experienced anything or read anything that would tell me what to do in this situation."

I'm glad he had the option to sit and wait for instructions.  In my situations, there were other people who depended on me and I just had to keep moving in some direction even though I had no idea what to do.  So...trial and error.  Lots of error. 

However, eventually I fell into luck or God and found people or they found me that could teach me how to do situations. 

When I turned 70 5 and 1/2 years ago I realized that it might be an idea with meaning to begin writing down the stuff I've learned.  I began to write a memoir.  I started writing about those lessons in my blog. 

Then a year or so ago I realized that everybody 70 and over has lessons they've learned that could be shared.  I mentioned to a couple of people whose stories I thought would be good ones that I was available to help them write them.  They turned me down.  So I gave up for awhile.  But now I'm feeling very stubborn about it.  I want to ghost write a series of stories for a book.  Watch out.  When I'm being very stubborn, I'm not going to relent.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Convincing My Amygdala that the Saber-toothed Tiger is Extinct

Brain studies -- I love them.  We're learning so much incredibly important stuff that we can use to make our lives better. 

Right now the articles I've read have informed me that if I had high levels of stress as a child -- which I did -- that my brain didn't develop normally.  Here's my probably-oversimplified-but-probably-accurate explanation:

The amygdala is the primitive part of the brain that alerts us when it thinks we're in danger.  We get a surge of adrenaline that gives us the power to fight or flee.  That's a good thing if we're living in a world where there are saber-toothed tigers everywhere.  We as humans probably survived thanks to the amygdala.

However, there are a whole lot of downsides to this mechanism.  The main thing is that there are no more saber-toothed tigers.  There are drunk mothers, etc. and that seems to have the same effect on a developing brain. 

The amygdala develops a large presence in the brain and for whatever reason the hippocampus (memory and learning center) doesn't grow as large as it's supposed to and the frontal lobes (that tell us whether to believe all the signals of extreme danger coming from the amygdala) don't grow as large either. 

So... if there's a lot of stress from poor parenting, poverty, abuse, disasters or whatever, the child's brain develops into an adult brain that works mostly to keep the adult in a state of anxiety, anger, and prey to bad choices to make the painful feelings go away.

Not a very functional adult.  That was -- and sometimes is -- me.

Not much research yet on solutions but there's enough to make use of.  For kids -- their need is a consistent food supply; warm, loving, present, unstressed parents; plenty of stimulation.  If they don't get those things...  For adults-- we need ways to calm our amygdalas down -- like yoga and meditation.  We need a nutritious diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and good protein and lots of omega 3s.  We need lots of rest and many connections with loving people.  Kinda similar for us adults, huh?

Apparently we need to really work on shrinking our amygdalas, increasing the size of our hippocampus and frontal lobes or we're just going to go through life feeling as if we're being chased by tigers.  If we don't want to have a world full of kids acting like they're being chased by tigers, we will want to help parents provide the things their children need.

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