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.
I was watching a video about the tragic killing of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer.
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
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
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.