Taming the amygdala

When we meet a new person we make snap judgments about whether they would work well in our social group. These responses will include the obvious physical differences but equally might include, religion, gender, nationality, orientation, or even what politics they follow, what sports team they support or what playground games they favour.

If that new person doesn’t ‘fit’ then this can be a precursor to protecting our own ‘turf’ and often disharmony results. At its most basic, this is an unkind word; at its most complex it can mean war. History is replete with examples and the fundamental neuroscience is the same each time.

The good news is that we can all learn to use other areas of the brain to tame our amygdala, and this training forms the foundation of our pastoral care at Russell House. To achieve harmony takes time, commitment and effort. Young children will make poor choices and we must be ready to act swiftly to help them learn.

As I look to the current Eastern European ‘playground’ I am sad but resolute to keep preparing the diplomats of the future. Only by taming the amygdala can we ever hope for peace in our time.

Craig McCarthy