What is the amygdala and what does it have to do with being childless? 

An interview between Tanya, a blogger on infertility and Nicci Fletcher, Voice of Infertility

The following is a short conversation that triggered my interest into finding out more about the amygdala and seeing if the suggestions made could indeed be directly related to how someone who is childless not by choice may react in a social situation, such as a christening.

Nicci: I'm currently learning about the amygdala.... that primeval part of the brain that controls our flight, fight or freeze response to danger. I'm starting to believe that when we decide that we can't pick up the phone or attend a baby shower that it is actually not a conscious decision. It is our primeval brain detecting that these situations cause a potential danger to us and is protecting us from that danger, which is exactly what it is designed to do. The amygdala has not developed as much as other parts of the brain so isn't able to apply reason or differentiate between the danger of a man-eating beast or the emotional danger of attending a social event. It sees them both as threatening our survival and instinctively does everything it can to protect us from that. Interesting insight that could be useful to help people feel less guilty and also something that they could share when they are being pressurised to attend something they don't want to attend.

Tanya: Since reading this I am hooked on trying to learn more. I have been researching what it is to be an empath (highly intuitive and sensitive to others emotional states). I have a feeling much like you that certain situations are completely overbearing to a small number. I think child-centric environments in particular can push us to physically feel unwell and recoil despite wishing we could just get through the event unfazed. I have not heard of the amygdala before but what you suggest makes perfect sense to me. Perhaps anxiety and panic attacks are a symptom of this part of the brain being over stimulated? Thanks for sharing. X

Nicci: My pleasure Tanya ..... thinking out loud as I type.... I believe you might be onto something about anxiety and panic attacks being a symptom of this part of the brain being over stimulated ...... perhaps the over stimulation means that the amygdala can't trigger the appropriate instinctive response. It doesn't know if it should initiate fight, flight or freeze because the different elements of the over stimulation require different responses. If the situation obviously needs flight (being chased by a lion) the brain initiates the response immediate and the job is done. If there are 10 potential dangers that the amygdala has identified and some need flight whilst others need freeze then melt down and a panic attack starts. Interesting thoughts!

This link makes for an interesting read and supports both Nicci and Tanya’s conversation

So, if you’ve ever feel guilty about your reaction to any situation that is related to being childless it is not your fault. Your amygdala and the painful memories it has stored away is to blame.

But remember that you have the power to reset your amygdale. When you are ready (and not before) you can start to lower the intensity of your flight or fight response. It will take courage to face scenarios that you would normally hide from so don’t push yourself too hard. Perhaps attending a child related party for a short time with a preset excuse ready to leave early. Don’t expect instant results but stay strong, believe in yourself and you will retrain your amygdala.    

Stephanie Phillips

Founder of World Childless Week