How we each process information about our environment, especially other people, is a process of risk evaluation. Our brains are designed to evaluate risk, danger and safety. In all new situations, our sensory organs immediately begin an observational process that makes a determination of whether it is safe to engage or whether we should get out of Dodge. This process is initiated by our sense organs, which then communicates with lightning speed to our brain, central and peripheral nervous system which then informs the rest of our body through electrical signals and chemical messengers, directing us towards the next action required to keep us safe. Stephen Porges has termed this process of perception and evaluation “neuroception.” He defines this process as “how neural circuits distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous or life threatening”.
I think of the amygdala as a satellite dish that is never turned off and receives emotional and sensory information which it then processes and passes along to get stored in our cortex. I think of my amygdala as my security camera, that act as an early warning system in the middle of my head, working to keep me safe from harm.