How Brains Turn Remote Threats into Anxiety
Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news coverage about Ebola. At the heart of issues like these lies uncertainty – the unknown likelihood of how ongoing crises will evolve over time.
Worries knocking on the door
When unpredictability or uncertainty prods us to consider the prospect of a bleak future, it fuels a state of apprehension that scientists study in the form of anxiety. Anxiety sits along a continuum of defensive behaviors we use when threats are somewhat remote from our current experience. It’s less extreme than the full-on fear elicited by direct, acute situations like an immediate physical attack.
Anxiety triggers the release of stress hormones and reorganizes our priorities to prepare for a future threat. Cognitive effects include repetitive worries, hyper-vigilant scanning for signs of trouble in the environment, and attentional and memory biases toward threat-related material.
In our age of terrorism, for instance, people worry about flying. When they do fly, people are prone to take particular notice of fellow passengers whose ethnicity resembles that of terrorist group members, and thoughts of prior terrorist attacks are likely to spontaneously come to mind.
At mild levels, anxiety can be beneficial for problem-solving and stimulating response actions to a future threat – think of Ebola preparedness drills at hospitals. Anxiety can motivate group action that will benefit society, such as fast-tracking some medical treatments or enacting a line of defense to prevent the spread of disease.
However, higher levels of anxiety hijack cognitive resources needed for other important tasks. In a laboratory study, we investigated how anxiety affects performance on a visual search task that emulated airport weapon screening procedures. We cast participants in the role of security screeners and asked them to look for “T” shapes amidst others on a screen. When we made them anxious by issuing a few unpredictable shocks, people tended to miss seeing a second “T” in the display. This effect was strongest in individuals who reported high levels of anxiety. Our findings suggest that high threat level alerts at US airports could be counterproductive, actually creating more weapon screening errors by elevating anxiety in workers.
Beyond anxiety to full-on fear
In contrast to anxiety, fear operates at the other extreme of the defensive continuum. It’s our response to clear and present danger. Fear elicits a full-blown fight-or-flight response and redirects bodily resources to deal with the imminent threat. You know the feeling: imagine you’re walking down a dark alley alone at night and you hear a loud sound – you freeze in your tracks, your pulse quickens, your palms sweat and your muscles tighten.
Fear is adaptive in this context because it increases the chances of survival. For example, directing blood flow to muscles used for running means the odds are better you’ll get away from whatever is threatening you. Fear engages the amygdala, an evolutionarily ancient brain structure in the temporal lobe, to exert a powerful influence over other brain systems.
In the throes of fear, attention is directed toward the threat, to identify what it is and figure out where it is located. In addition, coping mechanisms kick in. Once the immediate threat is gone, memories are updated so that it can be avoided in the future.
Because of fear’s intense physiological demands, prolonged or repetitive fears are particularly damaging for the brain and body. We found that in posttraumatic stress disorder, the amygdala is shrunken and less able to create precise memories for threatening material. Patients are left with overgeneralized fear memories. Rather than being triggered by actual threats, these fears can be provoked by stimuli that only resemble the original danger; or they can even occur out of the blue.
The constant interruption of daily life by intrusive traumatic memories cumulatively takes its toll on the health and well-being of individuals living with PTSD and their families. If not properly treated, PTSD often leads to personal and professional difficulties, depression or substance abuse.
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China had the Opium Wars which wiped out almost all of China, that is those who were the most imaginative-creative-geniuses.
That is what happened to those that did not practice the TAO.
China has offspring of Communist thinking. BIG "T" BOYS, due to only boys born and literally killing as many female of their species as could get done!
Not exactly the thoughts of higher thinkers. Look at how the GAMBLING ADDICTION is their "Religion" over the TAO. The Taoists taught China how to be the highest of human attainment! Did that happen? A RESOUNDING NO!
Therefore, America can be the ENLIGHTENMENT that the TAOISTS' taught the "Chinese".
1. Nine Compartments in the brain. First, at the top of the bridge of the nose, the hairline at the beginning of the scalp in the head, take hands and make the "Beak" which has been after the "Gathering of Chi" in the "Golden White Energy of the Cosmic". BREATHE THE SLOW SPIRAL BREATH INTO CHAMBER NUMBER ONE,
2. Continue following the numbers of the compartments in the head-brain, the MIND is every cell of the body-spirit-MIND, and each compartment has a great gift.
3. When we are using only less than ? Seven (7) percent (%) of our brain, we are very dumb indeed.
WAKE UP AMERICA and breathe the breath of Chi Qi Ki into each compartment of our brains. The CROWN is how the practice is taught, where the beak hands can take each compartment and slowly breathe Chi Gong into each GIFT, nine breathing inhale-exhale.