HunterThinks.com

The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry

Posted: 13 October 2018
Updated: 13 October 2018

A clear explanation of hypersensitivity that you can test yourself

Professor Richard S. Kling

I took two classes from Professor Richard S. Kling (pictured above) at my law school in Chicago. When I was a lawyer, I wanted his interpretation of a law and he gave it to me. We had a good relationship. He was one of the good people who tried to prevent the destruction of my life. In the post below, you will need to remember two facts.

  1. I do not feel any fear of Prof. Kling, and I have never felt fear of him.
  2. Prof. Kling is not a threat to me and has never been a threat to me.

A few facts about the amygdala, threats, and fear

  1. The feeling of fear is entirely conscious. If you are unconscious, you cannot feel fear. Some bodily functions, such as increased heart rate, often accompany the feeling of fear, but those bodily functions are not the fear itself.
  2. The actions of your amygdala cannot be controlled by your conscious thoughts.
  3. Your amygdala learns to associate stimuli (the senses, memory & imagination) with outcomes.
    1. The smell of cookies baking in the kitchen: good outcome.
    2. Your mother using your full name while yelling from the other side of the house: bad outcome.
  4. Your amygdala makes mistakes. An example: for three months, when the different foods on your plate are touching each other, you usually feel sick. Your amygdala associates the foods touching each other with sickness. When you see that your food is touching each other, your amygdala sends a message to your body, “This is probably a threat.”
  5. Your amygdala communicates the potential threat through your biochemicals sent to many organs and to other parts of your brain.
  6. Your bodily functions change, but you are not experiencing fear.
  7. Your amygdala sends a message to the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for processing your vision and hearing. When your cerebral cortex receives your amygdala’s message, your cerebral cortex instructs your vision and your hearing to become highly aroused and to scan your surroundings for threats. That is why your vision and your hearing are more sensitive when your amygdala sends a message.
  8. You still are not feeling fear. Your bodily functions are automatic and unconscious. Your cerebral cortex is looking for danger in your surroundings.
  9. Your amygdala does not tell your conscious mind about the possible threat. Instead, your amygdala 1) tells your body to prepare for danger and 2) tells your cerebral cortex to look for danger. All of your bodily functions happen before you are conscious of your bodily functions.
  10. After your bodily functions prepare you for a dangerous situation, and after your cerebral cortex looks for threats in your surroundings, your cerebral cortex sends messages to your conscious mind.
    1. The message might be, “I have a feeling that you are in danger. I see a tiger in the tree in front of you. I hear the tiger growling.”
    2. Or the message might be, “I have a feeling that you are in danger. I looked for threatening things, but I didn’t see anything. I listened for threatening things, but I didn’t hear anything.
  11. Whatever the message is, your conscious mind processes the message and decides whether or not you are in danger.
  12. Only now, can you to feel fear. The actual message from your amygdala is not important. The actual message from your cerebral cortex is not important. Whether or not you feel fear is based on your conscious mind.
  13. If your conscious mind decides that your surroundings are not dangerous, it is impossible for your conscious mind to send a message directly to your amygdala and say, “There is no threat. You should stop sending messages saying there is a threat.” Ïn other words, it is not possible to “just get over it.”

A simple, safe test so you can better understand your amygdala

I was watching a video about the tragic killing of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer. At the end, the video shows the courtroom pronouncement that the former police officer is guilty of murder, shows the defendant’s reaction to the verdict, and then shows the reactions of the courtroom spectators.

This is the video. The important part is only eight seconds long. It starts at 7:55 and ends at 8:03. This shows the reactions of the courtroom spectators. The test will not work, and you will not understand everything in this post if you don’t watch eight very long seconds of people sitting in a courtroom. Please watch eight seconds of the video. The important part starts at 7:55.

Now that you watched eight seconds of people in a courtroom, have your bodily functions prepared you for danger? Are your senses highly aroused? Are you searching your surroundings for threats? Do you feel fear? (If you didn’t watch it, will eight seconds ruin your life?) No, those things didn’t happen to you: you feel the same as before or possibly a little more bored.

Your amygdala didn’t detect a threat in the video. Your amygdala didn’t send messages preparing your body for danger. The video did not cause you to feel fear.

How did the video affect me?

I watched the video from the beginning. It is a tragic story, but my amygdala did not detect a threat until approximately 7:57 when the video shows us the courtroom spectators.

At that moment, my amygdala sent a strong message to my body. The message was, “Your suffering will increase by one-thousand times, you are powerless to prevent it, and you will live for decades: tormented by solitude but tortured by companionship.” The message from my amygdala was much stronger than normal. My conscious mind was still unaware of the message and my conscious mind was still unaware of what happened in the video that caused my amygdala to scream, “Danger!”

What triggered my amygdala? Prof. Kling is one of the courtroom spectators. My amygdala reacted to him before my mind was conscious he is in the video. (He is wearing glasses and scratches his chin. The panning shot stops panning when he is in the center of the frame.)

Prof. Kling is not a threat to me or a danger to me. But, my amygdala associates Prof. Kling with the suffering, the threats, and the dangers that began more than eight years ago. Because my amygdala unfairly associates him with these horrible things, when my amygdala saw Prof. Kling, my amygdala unnecessarily sent messages telling my body to prepare for extreme danger.

Long after my amygdala sent the strong message, and after all of my bodily functions started preparing me for catastrophic danger, my conscious mind saw a face that looked familiar: I estimate at approximately 8:01. (Is four seconds a “long” time? If a person attacked your mother, would you wait four seconds before helping her? If something is potentially dangerous, four seconds is a long time.)

I replayed the video multiple times, paused the video in different places, and compared the video to pictures of Prof. Kling. My conscious mind decided it was definitely him.

Remember that the amygdala does not communicate directly with the conscious mind. But because I have been forced to live with these medical problems for many years, I am good at recognizing when my bodily functions were caused by my amygdala.

While I was deciding if Prof. Kling is in the video, I recognized that my amygdala had reacted unnecessarily. My amygdala was wrong: my surroundings were not threatening, and Prof. Kling was especially not threatening.

Because my amygdala sent a message, I had many bodily functions that accompany fear, such as an increased heart rate. But because I have been forced to live with these medical problems for many years, I am very good at distinguishing my bodily functions from my feelings of fear.

I did not feel fear because of the video, and I especially did not fear Prof. Kling. My conscious mind determined that I was not in danger, but my conscious mind cannot send a message to my amygdala to tell my amygdala everything is ok. Furthermore, my conscious mind cannot tell my cerebral cortex, “False alarm. The highly aroused hearing is unnecessary, so return my hearing to normal.”

Because of the false alarm in my amygdala, my hearing is more sensitive and my hearing is especially listening for sounds associated with danger. My conscious mind cannot turn off my amygdala or the highly aroused hearing in my cerebral cortex, so those parts of my body will not return to normal until all of the biochemical messengers have gone home (are reabsorbed into storage).

Three facts about our bodies make this situation more difficult. First, most of the biochemical messengers are reabsorbed between 15 and 60 minutes after my amygdala stops sending danger messages, but a few biochemicals and bodily functions do not return to normal for two or three days.

Second, after my amygdala stops sending danger messages, my hearing is still more sensitive and still listening for danger for the next 15 to 60 minutes. If my highly aroused hearing interprets a sound as danger, it sends a “Danger!” message to my cerebral cortex, and my cerebral cortex can send an alarm to my amygdala, and the entire process starts over.

Third, during the two to three days after the amygdala message, my overall health is reduced, such as a weaker immune system, and my amygdala is more likely to unnecessarily react, and the entire process starts over.

Conclusion: the dysfunction of my amygdala is entirely biological. It is impossible for me to cure or improve this problem with changes in my behavior, changes in my thinking, or by being optimistic or thinking positively. Medical science does not understand much about these problems, but we have developed therapies that can cure these problems. No therapy fixes every problem, so we usually must try multiple therapies until we find the one that works for that patient. In the future, we will understand the biology much better, and we will know exactly which therapy will help each patient.