In response to a question;

“Why is that? When by myself, I can love anyone. But after spending two hours with that same anyone, I want to escape and hide.”

To answer this question we have to have a good understanding of our phylogeny, our biology and our brain structure and processing.

As a species we are born preprogramed to bond for our survival. As we mature, this becomes the love part of the equation in relational dynamics.

Our brains have a fear/alarm system called “the amygdala”. These are 2 small “almond shaped” structures centrally located in the brain in an area referred to as the limbic system. This is a primitive area of the brain that we share with all mammals. This fear/alarm system is autonomous and instinctual. It operates automatic defences. How much control we have over its instinctual impulses depends a great deal on how our brains grew as a response to our early emotional environments. And how much independent influence they impose relies on the strength of connections to regulatory systems in the brain (like the prefrontal cortex).

For instance, if our early experiences involved repeated or prolonged and intense periods of fear, then the areas of the brain associated with responding to danger will receive a boost in energy towards development of these particular areas, other areas, especially ones that moderate and calm the danger response, might not receive the same developmental energy and therefore growth that they might otherwise receive in a nurturing environment is impeded. We develop a heightened arousal for danger signals because our developmental experiences have educated neurons within the areas associated with fear response that the world we are growing up in is a dangerous world.

The fear/alarm system is memory based. When I say memory, it is not the kind of memory that you can recall in sounds or images. The fear/alarm system has its own memory system, often referred to as state level memory, or intrinsic memory. We are born with very few fears. Fears are primarily learnt. It works by recording something that caused distress, or fear for survival, and responding with a simple question of 2 responses, should I fight the threat or should I run away. This fight or flight response is very primitive, instinctual and basic to all mammals. Once the amygdala has experienced something that caused fear, it remembers that experience and the fear/alarm response switch is automatically triggered should a reminder of that experience occur.

People that have experienced threat or fear at the hands of their earliest emotional bonds, at a very primitive level of their brain, react to emotional bonding with this fight or flight response. And the truth be told, we have all experienced some form or level of threat or fear at the hands of our earliest emotional bonds. We’ve all been punished to some extent or another by our parents and we’ve all experienced this with some level of fear response program. So we all suffer, to some extent or another, a fear response to emotional bonding.

But when you throw in to this equation prolonged and intense fear during early stages of development, like you might, say, in cases of abuse, neglect, parental abandonment or parental death. The programmed autonomous response of “emotional bonding means danger” is much stronger, dominant and irresistible.

It’s easily able take over our behaviours and perceptions because survival is a priority of the organism.

It’s a survival response. The primitive part of the brain literally thinks that “love” is a threat to survival and then the brain goes through a “connect the dots” calculation and concludes that the object of love is actually the threat to survival and must either be fought to drive it away or evaded and distanced from, so that it is no longer a danger. This whole behavioural process is dictated by the amygdala. When we haven’t developed a good system of regulation of the amygdala from the connections our neurons grew as we developed through insufficient parental nurture, the amygdala is able to literally hijack us and take over our behaviours, actions and perceptions in the interest of survival.

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