Last summer I completed an online class about “Calming the Anxious Brain.” It was very interesting and helpful. The amygdala is a real pain sometimes. Getting it to shut up long enough for some sensible thought can be tough.
I guess I was surprised to find out that abdominal breathing really does work. Obviously, air is still flowing into the lungs, but purposely allowing the abdomen to expand rather than the chest aids in quieting the amygdala.
When I was a practicing therapist, I talked to myself as much as I talked to my clients. I don’t know if they realized it or not, but they were helping me as much as I was attempting to help them.
“Counselors become counselors because they need counseling” is a statement I’ve repeated many times to anyone who will listen. It’s really true. I don’t know who said it, but they were right.
One time I was talking to a therapist and as we talked, tears started rolling down her cheeks. What she was saying meant more to her than it did to me, but evidently, she needed to hear what she was saying.
Learning not to react the way I always react is a challenge that’s hard to describe. I think reaction is part brain wiring, part environment, part habit, part self-preservation, part passive-aggressive, part personality, part emotion, part caffeine (or lack of it), and part indigestion.
I can illustrate environmental reaction by relating a true story. When I was a church pastor many years ago, the sanctuary of the church was being remodeled so we had services in a gymnasium. Immediately, the feeling was different, and people commented about it. One person said, “Let’s just stay here, I don’t want to go back to the sanctuary.”
With past experiences good and bad, conversations, and events, repeated again and again in a setting, people can learn to have habitual feelings. They just walk into a room, or in this case, a church sanctuary, and have feelings. So, in this example, the setting was different, so the feelings were different. People were not bound by habitual feelings inspired by the setting and baggage.
So, the work goes on.