The other day I was on the phone with a friend who was in the Napa Valley. All of the sudden, we got cut off and couldn’t connect back for a long while. When she finally was able to call me back, she said, “My phone was too hot! It said I could make emergency phone calls only.” It was 103 degrees there!!
Ahh, climate change!
What if we had the same kind of internal emergency warning sign when our brains got too hot? When we got into heated arguments with people? Well, it turns out that we do!
It’s called the amygdala and it’s in our brains. And, much like the iPhone’s operating system, it is there to protect us when we are in danger. We experience it as “fight or flight” – that’s when the amygdala is secreting a flood of hormones that trigger our response. Your brain is yelling “Fire!”
Have you ever experienced a rush of anger where you can’t think of anything else? Where you say things in the heat of the moment that you would never let yourself say at other times? Or where you actually put yourself in more danger by running away or fighting back? (I once was so angry I got out of a moving car!)
Well, as we all know, yelling fire when there actually is one, is really helpful. But yelling “fire!” when there actually is no threat can actually be really dangerous. And we need the ability to discern the difference.
In her article, “Calming Your Brain During Conflict,” Diane Musho Hamilton shares 4 things that we can each do to override the danger signal, and to determine whether there really is an emergency going on. She suggests that we practice mindfulness (even during the conflict) by:
- staying present,
- letting go of the story,
- focusing on our body, and
- paying attention to our breathing.
Now the hard part, of course, is remembering to do it when you’re in that fight. And that part is up to you.
I can only say, “practice, practice, practice.”