Quick Tips to Soothe Fear While Empowering Healing

By Dr. Kate Truitt

It’s important to understand the role that fear plays in our lives and how it’s processed by the brain. The amygdala, also known as “Amy,” is a key player in this process. Our past experiences greatly influence the way we perceive and react to new situations, with 90% of our present moments being informed by the past. This is not always a negative thing as it allows for quick survival instincts, such as avoiding dangerous situations. However, when the amygdala becomes overly active, it can lead to negative emotional and physical reactions such as stress, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors. The amygdala acts as a protector and overrides the thinking brain in the process of information processing.

When the fear brain, or amygdala, becomes overly active, it can lead to negative emotional and physical reactions such as stress, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors. This can happen when the amygdala’s threat assessment algorithm is based on past experiences that are no longer relevant to our current lives. It may be triggered by something that the amygdala feared from 20 years ago that is no longer a problem in our present lives. The amygdala’s evaluation of the threat level can cause us to engage in unproductive behaviors such as lashing out in anger, isolating ourselves from others, or using alcohol or other substances to ease stress and anxiety.

As someone who has experienced trauma, I have developed the ability to recognize when my past is influencing my present through the warning signals of the amygdala. By understanding these signals in context, I have been able to improve my self-awareness and develop strategies for finding balance between the impulses of my amygdala and my own choices. I aim to share some of these techniques for building resilience in this article and explain how they can be applied.

Soothing the Amygdala
In order to achieve a state of calm and activate the rational thinking brain, it is important to understand the language of the fear center, which is the amygdala. This language is not verbal, but rather is based on electrochemistry. The amygdala acts quickly, processing information at 75 milliseconds, while the thinking brain takes longer at 350 milliseconds. This means that the amygdala is able to assess and react to a situation before the thinking brain is even aware of it. By understanding and interpreting the signals of the amygdala, we can effectively communicate with it and bring about a state of calm.

During moments of fear or trauma, the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, is the first to process and react to information through the five senses., When the amygdala is not activated, the thinking brain is fully engaged in processing information. However, when the amygdala is activated, it takes over and the thinking brain is less involved in the information processing. It’s important to note that the amygdala not only affects the brain but also the whole body. The level of activation of the amygdala can vary, and when it reaches 100%, it takes control completely.

It’s important to understand that the amygdala, or the fear center of the brain, is solely focused on ensuring survival and acts quickly to determine a solution in potentially dangerous situations. This can be beneficial in instances such as encountering a mountain lion, where the amygdala’s response of waving your arms, making yourself appear larger, and yelling may protect you. However, in less critical situations, such as being cut off in traffic, the amygdala’s reaction of yelling, honking, accelerating and tailgating can be considered excessive and unproductive.

Calming the fear center, or Amy, is not an immediate solution, but rather a gradual process. The thinking brain may have limited control over the fear center’s actions in stressful moments. Therefore, preparing for and working towards building resilience should be done outside of those moments, so that we can have tools to use when the fear center is activated. Resilience is something that can be continuously developed and the process of calming the fear center is an important aspect of that. Here are some ways to achieve this

Introducing CPR for the Amygdala
CPR for the Amygdala is a technique that aims to help individuals regain emotional and physical balance during times of stress. The video exercise demonstrates the use of self-havening, a mindful touch technique, on specific areas of the body to generate calming delta brain waves. Additionally, “brain games” are incorporated as distractions to interrupt the amygdala’s stress response. This video will teach you how to decrease anxiety and develop resilience through the use of CPR for the Amygdala.

Harnessing Neuroplasticity to Build Resilience with the Creating Possibilities Protocol
Once the Amygdala is calmed down using the CPR for the Amygdala protocol, and the working memory is given a new task, the next step is to create new possibilities for how we want to feel in certain situations and for new overall pathways we want to have in our lives. The Creating Possibilities Protocol is a method for building these new neural pathways and to sustainably have the brain we want to live in going forward. The 8-minute video teaches how to create possibilities by using positive memories. The protocol is written below for future practice.

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