React or Respond
What happens in your brain?

Do you automatically react or respond when something happens that you don't like or someone tells you something you are at odds with?

Do you feel in control or are your emotions in the driving seat? 

Or like many people you respond in most situations but there are a small number of scenarios that cause you to react emotionally?

In order to learn to manage emotional reactions it helps to understand how the mind works. Once you understand the processes, you can look to adapt those that you which to change.

The Limbic System and the Amygdala
The processes we use when we react or respond

Within the brain is what is called the limbic system, it is also sometimes called the emotional brain. 

Within the limbic system is the amygdala which is the part of the brain that learns about what to fear and what not to fear. Information that we have learnt, such as, fire burns, spiders are scary or that someone will hurt us is stored in the amygdala.

The amygdala when identifying an event that is stored as something to fear can cause a nearly instantaneous reaction. The level of emotional reaction is gaged and reactions can be varied. Examples can include facial reactions, verbal responses such as screams, heavy breathing or sweaty palms.  Emotion and physical reaction are also associated, for example blushing when embarrassed or a pain in the chest when emotionally rejected. Where physical safety is in the question the responses can be 'fight or flight' or even freeze.

Having this type of reaction with no control can be quite unsettling. Luckily, we do have a level of control over the amygdala, as it responds to internal and external reaction. 

For example if we are stressed by what someone has said and someone else comes and agrees with you this can calm emotions that you felt. Additionally if you think you see a spider and it turns out to be a plastic one, you can loose the fear.

We therefore look to find the internal and external actions that are effective in allowing us to take control back. Some may be used to manage short term or longer term reactions.

Look out for what works for you. You will be using some techniques already. They may include

  • Breathing slowly and calmly
  • Counting to ten
  • Relax all your muscles
  • Repeating sentences such as 'I am ok'
  • Sing a sing in your mind that is upbeat or relaxing

Look inside you for what you normally use.

Once you can identify what causes the amagdyla to kick in your can start to learn whether to react or respond.

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