4 min read



I've been thinking a lot about the amygdala, the part of the brain that's involved with the experiencing of emotions, especially the experiencing of fear and anxiety — the fight or flight response.

And yeah, it's because I listened to the song the BTS member Suga put out by, AMYGDALA.

How Suga describes the amygdala to RM:

"It processes fear and your response to it, like running away. So like, if you have trauma and you see something related to it, your heart starts to race, it creates fear and it initiates a flight response... It stores your trauma... So if you're scared of water and you have bad memories of water, subconsciously the amygdala stores it.

The lyrics and texture of this song capture my feelings of fear and anxiety, as well as desperately running from these feelings. Running from trauma.

We all have an amygdala. And we all have trauma. Typically when we think of trauma we think of uppercase Trauma. But there's also lowercase trauma.

My therapist I started working with recently helped me see how I run from anxiety in my own life.

I was telling her how I canceled this movie night I wanted to host. A couple friends that were coming ended up having other plans, and I ended up canceling the whole thing (to actually join their plans).

I could've run the movie night without those two friends. But overall, the movie night stressed me out. My amygdala was probably triggered af. I was anxious - I wasn't as close to the rest of the people coming, I only knew them through those other friends. I had a hectic week outside of that night, and I also had to worry about cooking for everyone too.

I remember when I canceled it I felt so relieved. Like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In my life, that's pretty indicative of some kind of flight LOL.

The therapist helped me see this was a kind of anxiety avoidance. There was a choice (continuing the movie night) that produced a ton of anxiety. So I just ran away from it and canceled it, even though that was the socially odder thing to do.

I didn't see this in the moment at all, but once it was pointed out to me, I realized this pattern shows up in other places in my life. I know it shows up at work when I have important meetings where I can't control the outcome. I can't run away, but I know the anxiety flares up and I want to run. I start fantasizing about FIRE usually then LOL.

My therapist pointed out you can fight, flight, or even freeze. Sometimes fighting is helpful, since you can see that your fear was unfounded, but ultimately what you want to do is "let go" and just be aware of your emotion. Mindfulness vibes.

The absolute worst anxiety I've had is probably after a practice presentation I had to give at Apple as an intern to our general manager on Apple News. He gave some blunt negative feedback and I went to the bathroom and literally curled into a ball, my arms hugging myself, rocking back and forth. I ran away by literally escaping the room.

Anyway, we have a lot of anxiety avoiding behaviors. I have a bunch more examples. It's not always terrible, but we should be able to identify when it happens.

My therapist also pointed out that sometimes we're able to face whatever's causing anxiety with the help of safety behaviors. In the movie night example, my two friends I was close to might have been my safety behaviors. I could host a movie night if they were there.

Here's a safety behavior people can probably more relate to. Imagine someone is really concerned with their appearance and can't socialize as a result. But if you give that person a mask, then suddenly she feels more comfortable and is able to socialize. That's an example of a safety behavior.

The female lead from It's Okay to Not Be Okay had something like this going on. She wore all these flashy dresses. The male lead didn't get it, and asked the head psychiatrist in the drama why she did that. The psychiatrist in the drama explains that it’s not so much that she wants to show off, but that she treats clothes like armor—protective and obscure. Like a safety behavior.

I know I feel the most safe in black long sleeves and black sweaters.

To be honest, I suspect the reason I don't "try hard" at writing is anxiety avoidance. It's why I don't try to polish my writing anymore, and it's why I don't email out these posts to the people on my mailing list. I guess I'm scared of everyone's reactions if I really try.

My safety behavior is not trying + not sharing my work I guess.

At this point I'm rambling but I think it's a shame that I'm so driven by anxiety avoidance and my amygdala in my life.

I wonder if that's why I'm so into meditation, since I'm trying to escape all of this.

I don't know.

My amygdala (My amygdala)
Save me from here, hurry and get me out of here, yeah, yeah