I was really enjoying the movie. I hadn’t seen the original Frozen nearly as often as The Boy had, but this was his first trip to a big movie theater ever. And Frozen 2 had us all enthralled. Wow.
As the water horse scene was getting more intense, I realized something distressing…
I had to pee!
What was missing is what I needed MOST right at that moment:
A PAUSE BUTTON!
Where was the remote?!? There was none to be found.
There I was, faced with a rising biological imperative and forced to break away to take care of my needs. (Sad face.) And yes, I held on until the water horse scene was over, and I’m so glad I did.
Which brings us to another biological need when we’re distressed: the need to get away from a threat… to release the building-up strains and tensions, and stop the rising feelings of being pissed off and primal that are so, so hard on our body and mind.
But I don’t always know how to do that!! Do you?
What comes to mind is what I needed in the movie theater… It feels like…
I need a pause button!!!
It feels important enough, I’d even put one in the middle of my forehead!
I know that sounds really Rickulous, but hear me out.
Have you ever found yourself in an argument you didn’t want? One where… whether you felt you were “winning” or “losing” …the experience was doing nothing good for the relationship. What typically happens?
The battle keeps going, of course!
Because… that is what our electromagnetic biochemistry and primitive brain were designed to do. Once we start fighting, we fight until we can flee or our attacker does. (Or one of us… or the relationship… “dies.” You know, “Fight to the death!” It’s a thing.)
Every time this dynamic has played out in my life, whether I was a participant or a witness, it’s hurt. I’ve regretted it later.
Have you ever said or done something that you deeply regret?
Let’s all together take a pause here to feel what we feel. Three breaths together.
We’re human. We get triggered. It can be helpful to be strongly aware and intentional about what we want to happen.
When I get triggered and activated into primitive brain, what I WANT to happen is that one or both or all of us recognize what’s happening and…
Take a Pause.
Sounds great. But, where is the Pause Button when you need it?!?!?
Good question. A worthy question. It’s a question right now that doesn’t have great answers.
Perhaps you’d be willing to be a part of developing them?
Here’s the challenge we face:
- Once the primitive brain takes full control, “thoughtfulness” is not really accessible.
- Unhealed past trauma (and who doesn’t have that these days…) acts as a multiplier, making the effect of the trigger 10-100-1000 times worse.
- For some people “walking away” from them when they are triggered is viewed as abandonment. It makes distress more intense.
- For some people they check out, disconnect, freeze, or become compliant, but this is a worsening of the situation even if it “ends the argument.”
- And there are situations where the emotional cascade gets so intense one person can threaten harm or crash into a heap of self-loathing.
And there’s more. It’s a big deal.
How we handle being triggered makes a huge difference in our relationships and our self-image.
In my twenties when things got intense, I’d get louder and louder. If louder didn’t work, I’d get more pointed and jabby with my comments. Up against a real pro at this kind of joust, I’d end up saying something like, “Fine! You’re right. You’re always right. I’m wrong.” The downstream effect of this was loss of trust, connection, and sense of safety.
I feel sad that in all my upbringing, and the love I had, and all I read, I was never exposed to the concept of the primitive brain and fight or flight (much less freeze and fawn).
The period when I learned about the lizard brain and monkey mind was a turning point in my life. I started to discern (mostly after the fact) the times when I was “Rick” and the times when I was “A Beast” (in fight, flight, freeze).
Then I started noticing when others were in THEIR primitive brain. I noticed how when others triggered, regardless of whether they were 3- or 60-years-old, they were like… a different person.
If we’re going to live in a dynamic of Emotional Freedom, this primal aspect of our humanness will evolve.
Here are some aspects of that conscious evolution.
- Since unhealed trauma acts as a multiplier, anything we do to integrate those past experiences in a healthy way makes us slower on the trigger and less intensely reactive. (I believe body-sensation centered approaches like EFT Tapping and others offer an excellent self- and group-care tool for this. We have decades of experience now using tools like Tapping to integrate trauma and re-code responses.)
- Discerning helps immensely. Notice people in their primitive brain. You can see it, hear it in their words, feel it in the air. Some people are ALWAYS in their primitive brain. Others rarely. Notice ~ but it usually isn’t helpful to call them out on it.
And notice your own body-mind. Especially, notice if you “feel like yourself” when you are triggered or hypervigilant… or does it feel like some “unseen force” has taken over? When you notice, remind yourself (even if it is years later), “Oh! I was in my primitive brain!”
Accepting the truth of a primal takeover doesn’t excuse the behaviors; you’ll want to clean those up. What it does mean is that you can shift from fault-finding and self-blame into proactively working to shift from knee-jerk reactions to considered responses.
- We need more compassion for each other and for ourselves. I believe the negative emotions we feel afterwards signal a possibility for resiliency and respect, rather than rage, distress, and regret. Let’s help each other out of the shame and into safer engagements.
There are many more aspects to this. And I want to be real with you. This is HARD.
It means letting go of the arrogance that we’re in charge of other people’s feelings (much less our own). It means being with emotions that are anchored in dysfunctions from our childhood (and going back many generations).
I know with all my heart this hard work is worth it and crafts a different future for ourselves and our children and loved ones.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a man who is not emotionally like his father and his father’s father. Every baby step I take means my family and friends and community benefit from my emotional growth and change… just as I benefit from theirs (and yours!).
Our work on consent, boundaries, safety, and respect matters! De-escalation matters! It’s precursor work that expands Emotional Freedom for All.
Thank you for being a part of this engagement. May we all find it easier and easier to take a PAUSE when we need one.
Until next time, I'm Rick at Thrivingnow. What have you found helpful in these situations? I truly invite you to share with the community what you are exploring and learning.
Email me at Rick@EmotionalFreedom.Love. Or visit EmotionalFreedom.Love and leave a comment. Thanks for listening.
Episode 10 ~ Emotional Freedom for All Podcast