When we are in danger the reptilian part of our brain is activated and we respond (without logic) by fleeing, freezing of fighting.
I certainly appreciated this aspect of my neurology when I was held up at gun point in my home years ago. I believe I survived purely because the reptile in me took over and I couldn’t think of what to do.
There are times though when it really does not serve us to stay in the reptilian brain. Why?
Because we cannot think when we are afraid.
Mostly it is better to be operating from the neocortex area of the brain – the place when logic, reason and language reside.
In our relationship with others, we often find our selves being afraid.
Take me for example. I have a strong fear-memory (residing in my reptilian brain) of insecurity. As soon as I imagine (NOTE imagine – not reality!!!) that I may be abandoned I feel insecure and terribly afraid.
When I am in this space I go quiet and withdraw.
As you can imagine, this is not very useful!
You know and I know that when there is an issue in a relationship it’s much better to TALK about it.
I have worked on this for many years (I’ve been on this planet for a long time 🙂 )
I am much better, but certainly have a way to go.
When I am feeling afraid in a relationship, I now know that I need to shake off the reptile as quickly as possible.
There are three ways to get into a more constructive space:
1) Ask questions
This gets you into your neocortex which is where you want to be and stay.
Two questions that works really well are:
“What do I want?”
“What constructive step can I take right now?”
Answering these questions help you to focus on the bigger picture and to keep a useful perspective on the issue.
2) Calm down
The quickest way to a constructive space is to get into gratitude. Breathe deeply and slowly. Think of your situation with deep gratitude. You will notice a shift in emotional energy.
3) Express your emotions.
Tell the other person how you are feeling: “I am feeling terrified right now.”
This takes you into vulnerability and authenticity.
Often that’s all you need to say. When you are vulnerable you are showing the other person the real you. This invites the other person to also be vulnerable.
Using these three steps, you recognise and acknowledge your fear but you don’t act from the fear.
You have opened the space for an authentic and constructive conversation.
This is what building strong relationships is all about.