November 23rd, 2015 6:49pm
Our primitive nature controlled by what I have labeled the automatic brain (AB, for short) has evolved for one purpose: to protect us. Always on the lookout for potential dangers, threats, or vulnerabilities, it causes us to fight or flee when it detects these. That’s how it protects us. The real problem is that this part of our nervous system is antiquated and nearly obsolete. It reacts to the possibility of potential danger, not considering probability. That’s because, it does not think, but only reacts. It “knows” what might be dangerous to us by storing data accumulated from life experience, with a vast majority of this data arising from childhood. Therefore, much of what we react to as potential danger during adulthood actually has its origins in childhood.
The power of distraction can be seen on both sides of the AB. On one side, it is one of the go-to actions of the fight-or-flight response when the AB senses danger. And on the other side, it can be used by us to reel in this pesky brain.
When the AB detects danger, it will, by all means necessary, cause us to fight or flee even if the danger is not real. For example, let’s say that you grew up in a household where lack was the norm—the familiar. I mean, your parents always complaining about money, talking poorly about others who had money, and always feeling guilty spending any money. That’s all you knew; all you heard growing up. Well, your AB was hard at work, below your level of awareness, storing all this info. One of the greatest innate dangers posed to animals (and yes humans) is that of the unknown. To the AB, unknown or unfamiliar or uncommon or uncomfortable are all “dangers” that it will have us fighting and fleeing. Therefore, if you begin experiencing abundance, your AB will cause you to flee it, if the above was anything like your house growing up. And how does it do that? One method is by distraction. It can generate all sorts of thoughts, physical symptoms (back pain, headaches, for example) to get you to retreat from the “danger” of the unknown, unfamiliar of abundance.
Besides our AB, humans possess a higher mind. This is the seat of consciousness and, I believe, a gateway to our deepest spiritual or Divine nature; perhaps a connection to what many (including myself) call God. This mind can think and reflect. It does pull upon data, but for the purpose of meaningful and, yes, more probabilistic reflection and action. We can utilize distraction by engaging this mind to diffuse the self-limiting and self-sabotaging reactions of the AB. Here are four surefire ways to distract the AB.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a method of tapping based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments but without the invasiveness of needles. This tapping along with positive affirmations can serve as a distraction from the emotional trigger causing the fight-or-flight.
When the AB is activated by potential danger, the thoughts and physical symptoms of nervousness fly seemingly out of control. When this happens, I look to distract the discharge as it will only continue past a minute or two if you indulge it further with thoughts there is more danger, either from the reaction itself or externally. I choose to repeat in my mind the phrase, “There is no danger there is no threat.” I sometimes add, “I am safe.” I repeat this obsessively to “interrupt” or distract the reaction. The AB will fire only if there is danger, so that is why I affirm the opposite.
Doing the opposite of what the AB dictates distracts it until it stops reacting. When it compels you to fight, back off. When it directs you to flee, confront the circumstance, assertively. This will begin to make the uncomfortable comfortable, the unknown known, the unfamiliar familiar and the unexpected expected. All of this will distract the AB and give you more control.
When the AB detects danger, it prepares all systems in our body to fight or flee. Not only does it cause our muscles to tighten, but it causes our breath to get more shallow and rapid to enhance oxygen exchange. The 4-7-8 breathing is a technique to achieve the appropriate distraction: Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
The more you practice these distractions, the less power the unconscious, reactive, automatic brain will have over you and the more in control you will be over your thoughts, your behavior, your life.
© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD