RESTORING EMOTIONAL BALANCE
WHEN HUMANS GO INTO A SELF-REINFORCING SPIRAL
People who do well in life have set up ahead of time "procedures" to manage discomforts and emotions. And they set up perspective statements that keep them from exaggerating or embracing false threat thoughts. If one does not set these up, one is left to the frequent error in the moment, not being able to think at the time and/or simply not having the necessary knowledge.
THE SIMPLE BASICS
The alarm system and the primitive brain can cascade into a hypervigilant state of looking for danger, supplying all matching, associated images at a frantic rate, emitting chemical stimuli to kick us into taking care of all the supposed threats to our survival, emotions that are fueling the fire further, which then causes the alarm systems to go into hyper drive - and on and on into a worsening downward spiral where we feel awful, lost, confused, frantic, uncertain, not knowing where to go, feeling permanently stupid...
We've all been there.
KNOW THAT IS IT STRICTLY A MECHANICAL PROCESS!!!!
The problem is that we do not realize that this is strictly a mechanical process reacting to a bunch of nonsense about seeming threats, some specific and some very vague and ill-defined, very murky. Our machine must solve the problem because the primitive brain sees it as a threat, as us being unable to cope with life sufficiently to survive. [For more clarity on how this works see The Story Of Our Happy And Our Unhappy Chemicals.]
Of course, to our higher brain, we know that is ridiculous, as we know we will be fed and clothed and housed - and that there is no real physical danger. The problem is that the lower brains are unable to reason or even to verify facts - they operate relatively primitively. To solve a problem we must interrupt or stop the patterns that the lower brains indiscriminately cough up.
This process shows up in depression, panic attacks, falling into a helplessness mode, falling into a hopelessness mode... all reinforcing cycles, self-fueling... but with no legitimacy in the underlying "data" provided by the un-thinking lower brains.
To overcome this a person must learn and understand the basics underlying this process - or the person will be stuck in the mode of believing somehow there is this force within them running the show and/or that the "data" from the primitive brain is correct (it often isn't!!!!).
The person must also know that the "data" from our perceptions is not even accurate, as our brain "constructs" the perception/memory rather than mirroring it. People not knowing will swear that their perception is both super clear and super accurate. It just isn't - and it's a mechanical process that is not your fault. It's just human. See the relevant videos to the right in the Thinking Brain Directory/Links page.
Unless we can get past these lacks of understanding, we are not likely to be able to see fully what is actually going on - at least seeing the nonsense in some of our conclusions and what we tell ourselves!
A SIMPLE CHAIN, A VICOUS SPIRAL
The simple version of this might look something like this (note that humans, by nature, are always looking for patterns and often find ones that don't exist):
Somebody looks unfriendly to us.
It matches a brain pattern coughed up by the primitive brain that triggers a childhood-like feeling of being incompetent and having someone know that.
Therefore it has been discovered that we are unworthy.
Yes, we are unworthy, plus we are not capable enough to even assure that we will do well in life.
Yes, there is something that is wrong with what I'm doing, I'm not living up to the standards I should live up to. That further indicates how bad off I am.
I can't afford to have anyone not like me. It's awful.
I just won't be able to survive.
This is terrible!
This sounds obviously unbelievable, but it represents the way of thinking of people in "the spiral". The primitive brain does not think and reason well, nor does it cough up accurate information.
A spiral, of course, is a spinning reinforcing "causal chain", where the immediately preceding link in the chain causes the next link and so on - one thing causing another which causes another which causes another - and, of course, just as in nature, this goes on forever until something interferes with it to stop it from doing the same thing over and over. This interference is an "interruption" (a stop or a diverting) and the introduction of something different - something that changes the path in some way.
Well, it turns out that in the human being, we can use lots of different interruptions.
We can feel frantic with our body in a frenzy and our mind hopelessly alarmed - and then we remember to take a pause (or a "time out") and to breathe deeply and slowly. Well, that is a signal that matches a pattern in the brain that fits with calmness and safety - because when we are safe we have a feeling of calmness and we breathe slowly and deeply. Often we fail to realize that the "circuit" goes "both ways". We can think a calm thought such as "I am safe and sound. I have life really handled" and we'll experience calm and deep breathing.
Most people would accept that idea.
But they might not see that deep breathing on purpose sends a signal that "all is well" to the limbic (emotional) center and the alarm department.
All I have to do to change things is to slow the spiral chaining down and to just change the momentum to a slightly different direction - and the spiraling reinforcement stops. And if I simply do mechanical strategies I will and absolutely can change the direction toward what I want. Initially it will be just an interruption but then gradually, if I keep up my strategy, it will become a new direction.
Note that the interruption is the first thing (obviously things keep going the same direction until we do something to interfere!). This applies to our current franticness and to long term causal chains.
Of course, before you can stop a chain of thoughts you've got to have something else that doesn't agree with what is being reinforced in the chain. You've got to have devised something else that you believe is true or could be true so you can insert it into the spiral to interrupt it.
Actually, you can also do it strictly mechanically just by introducing something that is "different" than would otherwise be in the chain. You could, instead of flaggelating yourself, stop and say "I'm a happy fairy" and skipping along flapping your arms as a happy fairy might do. That is an interruption that would definitely work, but it might not be very sustainable. Bringing in a rational believed truth that opposes the chain of thought would be much more effective - and we can keep using it and inserting it into a new chain that has one spiraling.
(Note that these are listed already for you in the Quik Reference piece.)
If all I do is read some gratitude statements, I will interfere with the chain. Surely that can't be too hard to get yourself to do.
I can introduce an argument (or read a piece or listen to an audio) that says I am actually safe and that those other things that are not done will have no real effect on me in any real way. (Of course, this means you have to have an understanding of what the difference is between a thought and a belief of a threat and what a real threat is. You have to have read about how we make up things and then believe them as the truth, forgetting that they were just something we conjured up. This is a left over from the viewpoint of a child - something that we simply must get past! [Landmark Education helps train its participants to know that they made up something - and that accordingly it should not be believed as "the truth" but only a "mental construct". (Actually, the latter term is from Buddhism.)]
So, without going too far in this text in describing all those things that could interfere and restore our emotional balance to some degree, I've written up a reference sheet to use to restore balance (to, as Susan Power proclaimed, "stop the insanity!") Remember that insanity is just extreme disorder and lack of clarity of what is true. Accordingly, anything we introduce into the brain that is the opposite of those will reduce and ultimately reverse the insanity if we keep up doing the opposite.
YOUR JOB IS TO...
Your job is to notice that you are pretty upset or very upset and to have decided ahead of time that you will not wallow uselessly in it - and accordingly you will have decided to grab the Quik Reference and pick something to implement and/or use it as a perspective piece.