Soon the wait will be over. On Monday, we’ll make our way back down South. One overnight on the way, one overnight in Munich, check-in at the hospital on Wednesday, intervention on Thursday, check out on Sunday or Monday, rehab in Burgau. That’s the plan. I can hear God laughing.
We are going for the occasional walk along the coast. The quietness and serenity in some parts are stunning. The wide, empty spaces make the mind go wander. It could go anywhere. Wandering and wondering.
As tourists from the North can’t get down to Southern Europe to enjoy the sun, a few days ago the sun decided to move up North. Blue skies, soaring temperatures, no wind. Fabulous if you enjoy the heat. A few degrees less would do me just fine.
I have been wondering about the effect of ongoing, sometimes endless-feeling uncertainty. As if I didn’t know it myself, I googled it. Here is the answer of an expert.
Apparently, we have a “hunger for certainty”. Our brain “craves certainty and avoids uncertainty like it’s pain”. We dedicate massive neuronal resources to predicting what will happen. Consciously, we base our predictions on what will happen on around 40 environmental cues that we scan constantly. Subconsciously, this number is over two-million (who counted?!). We dedicate huge resources to constantly process this incredible amount of data subconsciously because it is part of our survival instinct. We need to be careful, we need to try to predict the future, we need to recognise patterns. If that doesn’t work for some reason, we feel that our life is under serious threat. Whether we are hunters and gatherers avoiding natural enemies, or sophisticated city folks trying to cross the road without being hit by a car.
That’s why our brain is addicted to certainty. When that craving is met, we feel good. When that craving is not met, a threat response is instinctively triggered and our brain automatically switches to alert. Just a little ambiguity and the amygdala, the primary structure of the brain responsible for our conditioned fight or flight response, kicks in and lights up.
Just thinking: a lot of what is happening during this pandemic probably has its roots here. And some of the reactions can be explained this way. Shutting everything down brings certainty. Though probably only short-term. Even hunters and gatherers had to leave the comfort of their home, the security of their known surroundings, to get food in order to survive. It’s probably all about a healthy and workable balance. Leaving your comfort zone, pushing the limits, is good for many reasons and, ultimately, necessary for survival.
My problem is that some patterns I recognise feel like threats. Instead of giving me certainty and making me feel good, they put me on high alert. That amygdala of mine is lit up like a flood light too often and for too long.
I guess all this amygdala business is not good for you if it goes on for too long. Hopefully, next week will make our lives a bit more predictable and bring a bit more certainty (in a good way). Less uncertainty. Less threat. More feel good. Rest for the amygdala. At least for a while.