If It’s Hysterical, It’s Historical :)

We’re not crazy; we’re just trying to survive. In many cases, however, the survival skills, while brilliantly effective in childhood (we made it out of there!) are unconsciously running the show in our adult relationship, and not in the greatest possible way. In fact, it can be bewildering and destructive.

First, we need to understand that our brain is a crude detector of real versus perceived danger. This can help us understand why we sometimes react the way we do. When we *perceive* danger; e.g. a tone of voice or facial expression, our amygdala fires up the nervous system, hijacks us and causes us to react the same as if we were being chased by a crocodile. So we fight, flee or freak out, which of course triggers partner’s fear and they do something equally scary for us.

The problem is this part of our brain has no calendar or timekeeping device. It doesn’t know how old, how tall or successful we are. And it doesn’t know that our partner is not the critical or dismissive person who hurt us when we were little. And this explains the outburst, which made sense when we were two years old, but makes little to no sense when we’re trying to communicate about the conflict du jour. When we’re triggered, we don’t run the data through our cerebral brain; we just freak out. Or withdraw, or say mean, hurtful things. Or whatever. We regress and momentarily become the child we once were.

That’s why we way “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical”.

We do have a resource we may not be using, though, and it’s both free and available at any time. It’s the exhale. A deep breath and a long exhale stimulates the vagus nerve, which then activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which returns us to homeostasis. In other words, we are highly capable of self-regulation and return to our higher functioning adult self.

Very handy indeed.

Happy New Year!

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