Written by: Lisa Tahir, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Responding as opposed to reacting requires that we develop skills and tools that allow us to consistently interrupt the thinking patterns that have led us to engage in unwanted behaviors of the past. One such tool is the development of what’s called somatic screening skills to interpret, decode, and intervene in the emotional escalation system that is activated in the neural pathways of our brain.
The brain and central nervous system (CNS) are able to instantaneously accumulate and interpret all previously encoded memories that appear to be similar to the current stimuli being received. This two-part process happens in nanoseconds, after which we are sent messages for further engagement.
The internal meanings we then create are based upon our sensory perceptions. As is stated in that classic text A Course in Miracles, “The world we see merely reflects our own internal frame of reference—the dominant ideas, wishes and emotions in our minds. ‘Projection makes perception’. . . . As a man thinks, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause.”
One way to develop a somatic screening skill is as easy as breathing. Literally. We can choose to actively slow down our reactive emotional system by using our breath. Before reacting and responding, try taking some slow, deep, thoughtful breaths. This will buy you some time to decode the information you are receiving during what may be a tense interaction. This is an important skill to use when engaging in controversial and heated topics with family members, or with intimate partners, telemarketers, solicitors, and friends. These are some of the people we are most often triggered by!
We can also be triggered by our own minds when we are alone. How many times have you imagined or fantasized a dialogue with someone when there may be bothersome unfinished business between you? To defend feeling angry and resentful we might imagine entire exchanges in our mind that will probably not transpire in real life. Or we might imagine a conversation that transpired years ago and, in the present moment, we find ourselves with raised blood pressure, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and agitated mannerisms, all of which may culminate in huffing and puffing around a room when there is no one there but us! We can go from being peaceful and calm to raging with anger or experiencing deep sadness in a matter of seconds by just thinking about things that happened years ago, or things that have not yet happened!
Cultivating Curiosity about Our Defensiveness
The mind is a powerful tool that is remarkable in its abilities to imagine and create. Let’s join in an intention to be slow to anger with each other and instead respond with curiosity and calmness. Instead of responding in defensiveness, let’s uncover more information with the intention of mutual understanding and resolution.
It is easier to interrupt a potential emotional escalation in the early stages of dialogue than in later stages when one person or the other may bring up unresolved situations from the past to add fuel to their perspective. Instead of reacting, it’s important to give yourself permission to take the time needed to slow down and think about how you want to respond. Often it’s the case that we attack ourselves for our shortcomings as well as identify flaws in others. In that light, I ask you to consider this perspective from A Course in Miracles, “The only thing that is required for healing is a lack of fear. . . . This does not mean the conflict must be gone forever from your mind to heal. For if it were, there would be no need for healing then. But it does mean, if only for an instant, you love without attack.”
Sometimes we may not know exactly what we are feeling (or why) in the moment of an interaction. We may feel an “ouch,” or a sense that something isn’t right. It’s appropriate to hold onto that information until a future time. We also might need to step away from the situation in order to gain mental and emotional clarity.
Allow yourself to step back and process things from a place of inner peace and clarity. As a result of practicing self-restraint and temperance, you’ll feel good about yourself in the long- term. Let’s also make an agreement with our loved ones to help each other communicate in this fashion. When Chiron’s core wounds are triggered, I offer you the meditation below for self-soothing.
Guided Visualization for Self-Soothing
First take a deep breath in through the nose and blow it audibly out of your mouth. Ahhh . . . . Let’s do this again: in through the nose and forcefully out through the mouth, removing all the stale air from your lungs. Now begin to breathe regularly so that you are comfortable.
Envision in your mind a space free of all thoughts and responsibilities. It may be outside in the open air, a clear space of green grass, an expansive beach of white sand, the open ocean, a large white room, or wherever your own imagination takes you. Imagine yourself in the center of this expansive and clear space that is rich with clean, fresh nurturing air and vibrant energy.
With each breath you inhale you are literally cleaning your body, mind, and spirit, right down to the molecules of your DNA. As you breathe in and out, only peace and unconditional love exist in this space for you.
Envision living in this spaciousness of energy every day and at every moment of your life. This is your cleared space of healing, and with every deep, gathering breath, your inner being is filling with light and every cell is repeatedly being filled with exactly what you need in this place and at this time. Stay in this place as long as is needed to completely relax. With each exhale, let go of everything that may be troubling you.
When you’re ready, thank this energy for filling your mind, body, and spirit with healing, and then thank yourself for taking the time to be joined with this guiding presence of unconditional love that is always available to you.
Before leaving this meditation, if you notice yourself being distracted by an unresolved situation with someone, take a few moments and call to mind this person who has disrupted you, and couple their presence with a deepened awareness of how much love they need to feel whole, complete, and happy.
It helps to imagine them as the little child they once were, and to acknowledge that they too were wounded deeply and needed to be loved more than they were at that time. These individuals are not evil; they are broken in tender places of vulnerability. Send them love now.
Finally, say out loud, “Thank you for my inner peace, may it pervade every area of my life and the lives of those I love.” Take a few centering breaths and gently come back into the room you’re in.
More techniques can be found in my book, The Chiron Effect: Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy, and Self-Forgiveness endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Lisa Tahir, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Lisa Tahir, is an inspirational podcast host of All Things Therapy, where she seeks to "Change Consciousness One Conversation at a Time.' Her book, "The Chiron Effect: Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy, and Self-Forgiveness," has been acclaimed and endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tahir draws her strength through combining the psychological with the spiritual, and as a licensed therapist seeks to help others in visualizing and creating their very best lives no matter what has been true in the past.