Article by 17160 Stephen Kalyta
In my half-decade stint at CMR, the most challenging event by far was the end of the second term. The academic year is in retreat and summer training or Grad looms on the horizon. In fact, even constructing this opening sentence some 28 years after Grad still brings with it a sense of both fear and excitement. I call that experience the courting of “Amy G Dala.” Of course, it is the amygdala that is the subject of this play on words.
Much like the emotions it is responsible for eliciting, the amygdala resides deep in the temporal lobe. It is here where fears both real and imagined can create a divisive array of anxiety-based emotions. The neuro-triggers at the College are nearly as plentiful as the tapestry of your collective experience. Is it exams, the looming responsibilities as a soon-to-be commissioned officer, your first posting, or the mountain of training you still face before achieving the goal of becoming an officer? The point is your career choice can and most likely will provide you a continuous stream of emotion-evoking stimuli. Of course in the highly demanding role of an officer, it is your training that provides the foundation from which you not only cope but excel in these emotional situations. A layer above this leadership training is the relationships you establish with your brothers and sisters in arms. Communicating in a safe, open and honest environment can give you a much-needed perspective based on how your thought processes compare with others in a similar situation.
The counterfeit nature of misaligned fear can be contagious or just as quickly released like the air in a balloon. The absence of information can be a huge trigger for anxiety. So, naturally, the anecdote is becoming self-informed. Today, the access to the internet, the sophistication of COMMS puts your generation so far beyond what I had access to. As Sir Francis Bacon said, ” Knowledge is Power.”
Another means of taming the amygdala requires some self-reflection. Is there anything you could have done to be prepared for the situation that is the source of stress? Stress can be self-inflicted, and the source can at times be attributed to the very choices you make that set you up for unnecessary pain and ultimately a self-inflicted wound. Consider whether a more pro-active approach to your studies, military standard or duties could have mitigated the impact of your current experience. This is not limited to the College, but life in general. The ability to plan, anticipate risk and mitigate it through pro-active action will give you the confidence in knowing you came at your current circumstances from a position of strength, rather than weakness. This position will help you tame the amygdala and tip the scale of emotions in your favour. It will also make the experience at the College far more enjoyable.