Loving my Amygdala

I was watching Star Wars with my kids on Saturday. And while I’ve now seen it more times than I can count, I am still amazed at how I hear the same things in new ways. The emotional intelligence in this movie is way ahead of its time. Drives my kids mad because they hear me go on about it all the time. But it makes me smile. And at the risk of sounding too technical I was hit by an aha moment when it suddenly dawned on me how close ‘amidala’ (Queen Amidala) is to ‘amygdala’. That part of our brain that’s involved in emotional processing – and in particular fear and pleasure. A perfect name for a woman so loved by Anakin Skywalker and whose death was his greatest fear. And his undoing.

When I saw the film again this week I realised how Anakin’s fear was instrumental in bringing about Padme’s death. It wasn’t childbirth that killed her as he thought it would. It was a broken heart with Anakin’s betrayal. The choices he made out of his fear and desperate attempts to prevent her death actually created it. Desperate in her grief, Padme simply lost the will to live.

There are so many things that could be said about the underlying themes in this movie. How people can and do die of a broken heart (a doctor recently described how the symptoms can mimic a heart attack – isn’t it incredible that our emotions really do have physiological consequences). Or perhaps it should be said how difficult we can make things for ourselves when we misinterpret information to our own peril. How often have we all done that? Or perhaps one of the most important themes is a better understanding of how we can attract those things we fear the most.

The thing is we are goal-seeking beings. And because of the very nature of who we are, we can draw to ourselves the very things we hold foremost in our minds. That’s pretty powerful isn’t it. So if we focus on all the things that frighten us we can build a pretty scary world to live in. But if we instead choose to focus on those that have recovered, those that have powered ahead, the things we love and the things that give us joy, we give ourselves the opportunity to create something so much better.

Needless to say I’m very careful about where I put my focus.

I often wonder how much our fears play a role in how we recover from the experience of cancer. I was fortunate to understand how much I could affect my own outcomes. And I guess that gave me a sense of control. A sense that I could change my life sufficiently that it would never happen again. But there are many other people I know who experience post-traumatic stress after their treatment is done. Paralysed by fear of the cancer re-occurring. But living in fear is no way to live. It affects our choices. It affects the way our bodies feel. It affects our quality of life.

One of the most important things I have come to understand is that while we can’t always change what’s happened to us, we can change how we feel about it. And that is where we can make all the difference…


If you are living in fear of recurrence or struggling with PTSD, a P.S.H. therapist can help you to regain your joy of life. For more information visit psh.org.au.



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