Mindset Weekly Article 4: Our Guardian Angel – The Amygdala
So now that I’ve covered the basic background of how your subconscious mind operates and how the brain developed through evolution, I want to focus on just one part of your brain. When this part is activated, it will automatically override your conscious mind from what you are currently doing. If you’re trading, you’ll experience internal turmoil, conflicts, indecision that causes you to make mistakes. Understanding this one fact can help you control your actions when trading. It is, of course, the Amygdala.
The Amygdala is part of the Limbic system. Remember in the previous article about the Three Brains, the Limbic System, also called the Mammalian Brain, shown by red in the picture above. The Amygdala is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response.
Over the past 150 million years, the Amygdala has utilised our 5 senses to seek out danger and keep us safe by triggering the “fight-or-flight” response. Such as; direct conflict, being attacked, being startled, fear, panic and anything that’s going to threaten life and limb.
Fantastic – what a great job.
And, it still does that for us today. So, what’s the problem? Well, the Amygdala hasn’t had a software update, it hasn’t evolved or kept pace with mankind’s evolution.
Let me briefly explain what happens when it’s triggered. And yes, I understand that for some of you this is boring but, if you need to answer a trivia question you’ll have the answer!! Bear with me – it’s important.
So, let’s create a scenario for 150 million years ago. A tiger comes along, the Amygdala is alerted to the danger - which is a really good thing. The Amygdala then triggers the “fight-or-flight” response. The body is immediately flooded with adrenaline causing our blood pressure to rise, the heart rate to increase, forcing blood to our arms and legs, preparing the body to fight the tiger or run away.
When the Amygdala is triggered, it automatically takes over and shuts down the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the part of our brain located behind our forehead where we make rational executive decisions. The Amygdala is not concerned that you’re analysing the markets, calculating lots sizes or looking at candlesticks, it’s job is to keep you alive. So why is it being triggered? Well, it turns out that any fearful, angry, anxious or worried thoughts also trigger the Amygdala.
And it gets worse. Money issues, business, relationships, the failing global economy, wars, terrorism, climate change, Brexit, stabbings etc. also triggers this response.
Technically; It triggers a response when one is in a position or situation where demands on a person exceed that person’s resources or ability to cope mentally, emotionally or physically.
The “fight-or-flight” response is not conducive to a trader’s performance. As traders, we need to be in a calm and relaxed frame of mind and in control of our emotions.
Is there anything that we can do to regain control of our emotions? YES!!
The Amygdala is connected to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and they influence one another. Although the ANS is automatically triggered when a potential threat is experienced, there are methods that we can use to influence and reverse its effect. And that’s because the ANS has two functions, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous system.
When the Amygdala experiences a threat it triggers the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, release adrenaline (Cortisol and Epinephrine) in preparation for the “fight-or-flight” response. The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is the opposite and relaxes the body. Both systems are like a light switch in that they are either on or off. Neither work at the same time.
You can utilise a variety of methods individually or in combination to help reverse the “fight-or-flight” response and elicit the relaxation response. Any form of exercise that causes deep abdominal breathing such as; weight training, cycling, jogging, brisk walking and visualisation. Yoga, Tai-chi and Qi gong all combine slow fluid movements with mental focus and deep breathing. But my favourite method is the Silence the Mind technique that I teach and have mentioned many times before. It elicits deep focused breathing and switches off the mental chatter in seconds, thus, allowing the Amygdala to reset and calm the body.
These are just some of the many techniques that you can employ to help calm your body and mind. Maybe you already practise one or more of them in your daily routine? Over the coming weeks, I will share some techniques that will help you to take back control, change your thinking and refocus your mind. As always, I hope you have enjoyed the input, I look forward to seeing any discussions and interaction from the community – more to come next week!
Senior Mindset Coach at Samuel and Co Trading. While studying and practising many energy healing systems spanning 40 years (EFT, TAT, TCM, Yuen Method, NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Qigong etc). He gained qualifications in Massage, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. His goal is to continue to help his clients experience freedom from life’s emotional trauma, stress, negativity, limiting beliefs and to holistically balance the Mind, Body and Spirit.