How to Get Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind Take control of your life this holiday season and help maintain a peaceful environment with these simple tips. BY GENE HIRSCHEL
Rewire your brain this holiday season and maintain control.
“ Amy is the switch in the brain that has kept us alive for all of these years, for when she senses danger, she pulls the plug on thinking.”
Here come the holidays. Do you find yourself getting frazzled on the hunt for a parking space or that new must-have doll? Are you and your soul mate at each other throats over where, when and with whom to celebrate the yuletide? Do the usual shenanigans of your ex feel so much more cutting when family time must be split?
It’s not your fault: Blame Amy!
That’s right, take a breath, relax, and understand that you can put the blame squarely on Amy this year. Tell your spouse that she is to blame when your shrills remove the paint from the ceiling. You can also forgive that person who just pushed past you in a panic, it wasn’t them at the mental wheel, it was Amy.
Amy G Dala, or as scientists call her the amygdala, is a very special part of the brain indeed. She is the special adapter that allows our new powerful and complex thinking brain to be compatible with the old reptilian reactive brain, a structure that we share with our green cold-blooded distant cousins. But taking a few minutes to understand how she works, we can learn to get along with the world in a much more peaceful and loving way, just in time for the holidays!
Brief Understanding of Amy
A bit of biologic history: As our minds became more complex, supporting higher reasoning, language, and complex social constructs, our reaction time began to slow down. When the saber toothed tiger starts the run, there isn’t much time to reason anything: we must react with fury and either attack, run away or freeze in place. Amy is the switch in the brain that has kept us alive for all of these years, for when she senses danger, she pulls the plug on thinking. For those would-be ancestors who didn’t have the adapter properly working? They became lunch.
So, if Amy kept us alive, where’s the problem? In our more civilized (and yes litigious) world, Amy isn’t always our friend. Ask yourself: when is the last time a mastodon got on your case? Or have you had any recent close calls with a rhino? Not likely. However, because our moral compass, ethics and even our comprehension of consequence is managed in that new brain, having it turned off at the mere possibility of danger is itself a dangerous prospect. Jails are full because of her, and lawyers of all shapes and sizes, both prosecution and defense, personal injury and divorce, are busy prosecuting or defending those moments where Amy threw the fateful switch and turned us in to bipedal lizards.
So, besides just blaming Amy, what else can we do to reclaim control of our actions? That’s the best news of the season: indeed we can get control back. Amy is a pattern matching algorithm, that is to say she is watching for signs that a pre-programmed danger is present. However, because of the way the brain works, she only requires a memory of a moment that made us feel unsafe. So if, for example, the in-laws driveway was the scene of an unpleasant encounter, then just driving up to the house can have us seeing "green." By the time we get to the doorbell, Amy is in full swing: heart a flutter, palms sweaty, breathing shallow and rapid. Any slight misstep will precipitate another incident.
Recipe For Peace
Our associations, thankfully, are programmable and mutable. After Amy triggers the lizard it is too late, but we can come at the problem in a different way. Here is the recipe for taking total control of your life and maintain that control in the face of adversity:
1. Call to mind moments that we felt safe and in control, relax into those moments and then mentally record our posture, breathing, and think of both a word and a color (the first that comes to mind) to represent that state of mind.
2. Test the word, the color, and the breathing to be sure it recalls that state of mind effectively. If not, find a new word or color.
3. Now, safely call to mind, at a distance, people, places or situations where you know you might "lose it" or have “lost it” in the past. Remember, for real dangers Amy is necessary; we are talking about perceived threats only. Keep the images, sounds and feelings at a safe distance so you can maintain control. Keep the images small and if necessary cloudy or murky to lessen the effect.
4. Now, with the negative images at a distance, recall the positive colors, breathing and your positive word. Repeat them out loud over and over while slowly introducing the image of the perceived danger. Begin to see that a little pride aside, your body and life isn’t in any real danger (if it is see step 3). Mentally float over the image and pour your positive color in, breathing and saying the word.
5. Mentally thank yourself for your new more accurate perception, and move on to another perceived danger.
That’s it! By using these mixed signals, the stronger positive color, breathing and word will usually overpower the more distant murky "danger" image. You have just physically rewired your brain!
Think of it like cleaning out an old phone list: you are removing the false positives to keep mindful and "human" most of the time, and saving the reaction moments for times when our life is truly in danger (walking across a busy NYC street while looking and listening to your phone is such an example). Or perhaps a ball rolls out in front of your car followed by a small child. In those moments, Amy shines and takes appropriate action leaving us breathless and thankful.
So, run out to the mall, smile more, come home with your treasures and hold your spouse. Celebrate and connect knowing that Amy will protect you from the real danger. Perhaps, you may even want to hang a stocking for her!
Gene Hirschel is available for stress management, weight loss and manage and team building seminars throughout the country in person and electronically. He is also available via skype for consulting, Ericksonian hypnosis and success coaching. His website is www.VTrance.com or call him at 1-888-963-7245.