One of the many cognitive dissonance moments was learning about the amygdala. That pesky part of the brain that sees a T-Rex instead of a barking dog. The amygdala kicks in when danger is perceived….unfortunately, long term abuse leaves me seeing danger everywhere. Examples a black cat is a pouncing panther, a test precedes a firing squad, every driver is out to get me, a tardy husband is mangled on the freeway….didn’t happen anywhere but in my brain. The amygdala ramps up the adrenaline. I can go from 0 to pure panic in less than a second. When saber tooth tigers were chasing our early ancestors this was needed….now, not so much but…..and it is a very big BUT….my experience taught me that very bad things can happen to me. I love the quote from the Will Smith movie, “If everyone is out to get you, are you still paranoid?” My counselor explaining to me how I went into hyper-drive so fast was unusual, I did not want to compute this information. I thought everybody responds like this. He gave me several small demonstrations on how I reacted without the rest of the brain being involved. Advantage my reflexes are very good in extreme situations. Disadvantage everything feels like an extreme situation. Living this way is just exhausting….plus the rest of the brain makes far better decisions. My counselor encouraged me to slow down the process….I adapted from other information I read somewhere…no longer remember the source:
Pause – breathe – Evaluate – Plan – Move
I first needed to put the flash-bang amygdala reaction on hold. Amygdala does not do pause… it is action only…so pause puts it on hold. I also prefer pause to stop because pause implies I will go again. Too easy to get stuck in stop.
Breathe is the next step. Ever noticed when anxiety sky rockets you hold your breath or hyperventilate. Focusing on breathing encourages me to be mindful of where I am at right now. Plus breathing gets much needed oxygen to the brain. Breathing is good.
Evaluate the problem. Defining a problem goes along way toward solving the problem. Or converse if you can’t define the problem, you are never going to solve it. Also break down a complex problem into different parts is helpful.
Plan, think about, involve the rest of the brain in working out a solution.
Move forward….too often I get stuck in the planning stage and plan and plan and plan and…..yea. I was terrified of making the slightest mistake. Took me a while to understand that falling flat on my face is still moving forward. Over time I added more decision making skills.