Regaining Control

Lesson objective:

In this lesson, we discuss the brain’s sensitivity to negative bonds. Usually, the body calms down on its own, and returns to a balance. At other times, some deliberate actions may be required to gain the control back; perhaps such as intentional slow breathing, going for a walk, or resting.

In the last video, we talked about triggers.

We mentioned the example of a gunshot, and how one experience created all sorts of negative associations and reactions. That one gunshot she experienced affected her more deeply than she wanted.

And it is often that case that–after an initial negative incident–the brain responds in a similar way every time we are exposed to a situation similar to that initial event. While frustrating, this pattern of reaction is part of the brain’s effort to protect you, and it takes time and effort to regain control over our responses to triggers. 

Let’s go back to the example of the elephant and the rider.

Put yourself again in the perspective of the rider on the elephant.

Imagine that you and the elephant are walking a clear path, but all of a sudden a mouse scurries across the path. What happens?

The elephant jolts, thrashes its trunk, and runs away wildly. Given the strength and size of the elephant, you will likely lose control of the reins.

When the elephant predicts or experiences a threat, it ceases taking instructions from the rider and runs for safety wherever it can find it.

You, the rider, likely lose control, overpowered by the quick, survival response of the elephant. Usually and hopefully, the rider can regain the reins, calm the elephant, and redirect it back on course. This is the same process we go through when to regain control after an automatic response to a trigger. 

As we discussed earlier, the brain is extremely sensitive to negative associations–to any situations that were perceived to be a threat to safety and survival. 

In the gunshot example, even though the woman survived, she still responds strongly and negatively to gunshots, or even perceived gunshots. Her heart rate elevates. Her pupils dilate. She begins to sweat. 

Her brain and body go through the full predictive cycle, gearing her up to deal with a potential threat, even if the threat is imagined. 

Let us be clear. The brain is predictive, so even small reminders of past pain or suffering can create a very quick and strong negative reaction. Like the rider, and like the woman in the gunshot example, after exposure to a trigger, we may experience unwanted or uncontrolled reactions, even if just for a little while, until the perception and feeling of threat passes.

Sometimes, the body calms down on its own, returning to balance. Other times, it may take some deliberate action, perhaps slow, deliberate breathing, going for a walk, or rest, in order to regulate and control after facing these triggers.