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Old May 7th, 2008, 12:41 AM
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Emotional Integration, Part 2

Last month I wrote about how my experience of moving to a new office with some of my colleagues triggered some familiar family patterns from my childhood. These familiar patterns activated my “lizard brain” in a way that not only created an anxiety response in me, but also led to a number of fairly dysfunctional projections and behaviors on my part. My reptilian emotional response was increasingly intensified by the reptilian behaviors of my colleagues who no doubt were also stressed by the change of working environment that we were all going through.

At the conclusion of the first part of this article, I promised I would share with you how I used this anxiety producing situation as an opportunity to consciously work on my personal emotional integration.
In Part One I of this article I described the process of how the brain stores up emotional memories of childhood experiences. Briefly, the first part of the brain to develop and be fully functioning in an infant is a tiny, almond shaped lump at the top of the brain stem called the amygdala. This primitive, yet essential part of the brain, regulates functions needed for basic survival. The amygdala, sometimes referred to as the “reptilian” or “lizard brain,” is fully functioning long before other parts of the brain develop.

The amygdala has no language capability but seems to store up emotional memories that later influence other parts of the brain and the central nervous system. The amygdala is the center of the “fight/flight/freeze” mechanism that is so crucial to our survival. When we are young, we internalize life events at a feeling level into this part of our brain. As children, we didn’t have the reasoning skills, maturity, or experience to evaluate the experiences. We just stored up emotional memories and their associated survival responses.

As an adult, when you experiences stresses, anxieties, life changes, or other events that mimic the emotional memories you had as a child, your amygdala will respond in much the same way that it did when you were a few years old. You will still either lash out, run, or duck for cover – in much the same way you did in infancy and childhood.

Most of the time, you are unconscious of your lizard brain emotions and the behaviors they trigger. You assume that every emotional response you experience when your amygdala is triggered is totally rational and completely related to your current situation – even when everyone around you is trying to figure out why you are reacting the way you are.
My cousin, Dr. Dannie Glover (a physician, not an actor), states that the emotional foundation that is created in the first few years of life influences our emotional makeup until the day we die. These early memories become the DOS of our emotional operating system. A classic example of how this works is the “Catholic guilt” of an adult who was raised in the church as a child but now only attends mass twice a year out of nagging sense obligation.

Here is how your childhood emotional memories affect you today. As you live your daily life, signals from your sensory receptors (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, skin, etc) are sent to various regions of your brain. Many of these signals reach your amygdala more quickly than they do the other parts of your brain. This is helpful if a saber-toothed tiger springs out of the bushes – you want to be able to react without having to think too much about the situation.

Having a highly reactive emotional response is good news if there really is a life-threatening event – you want to be able to react quickly without the need for time consuming analysis. This response isn’t so helpful if it is just a kitty cat in the bushes and your mind and body are reacting as if it is a man-eating feline.

When you experience present day events – the frown of a boss, the anger of a loved one, an embarrassing moment – that are even the least bit similar to memories you stored up from childhood, they trigger a lightening fast emotional response in your amygdala (much like the tiger/kitty in the bushes).

Here is what happens in your brain when present day experiences mirror childhood memories:

You experience a life event and your senses send information to various parts of your brain.

Your mind interprets the feelings generating in your lizard brain (fear, anxiety, etc.) and gives them a name and meaning (Since my boss is frowning, I must have done something wrong. Oh, no, I’m in big trouble. I fucked up again.).

Based on the type of emotion that is triggered in you and the name and meaning you give to these feelings, you unconsciously spring into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Your unconscious choice of survival behaviors will typically reflect the choices you made in childhood. “Fight” behaviors might include becoming aggressive, hostile, controlling, argumentative, giving “dirty looks,” or assuming an confrontational body posture. “Flight” responses could include avoiding, seeking approval, using “covert contracts,” lying, or becoming subtly manipulative. “Freeze” behaviors could include hiding, getting the “deer in the headlights” look, crying, apologizing, having a panic attack, or just completely shutting down.

The behaviors associated with these three survival reactions will probably be very similar in nature to the behaviors you exhibited as a child when you experienced these same emotions (Childhood: Mommy is mad, it must be my fault. I’ll draw her a nice card. Adulthood: My boss looks upset, I better look busy, work later tonight, put in some extra effort.).

Your thoughts about what you are experiencing will be highly influenced by your old emotional operating system. Your mind likes consistency, so it will want to match how it perceives what is happening to you to what you are feeling (You are feeling anxious, so your boss must be mad at you. It might never cross your mind that your boss might be frowning about something that has nothing to do with you – he just found out his teenage son got suspended from school.).

Your mind translates thoughts and feelings into physical responses: Adrenaline and cortisol pour into your bloodstream, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, blood is pumped from your internal organs into your large muscle groups.

You typically will have no clue that physical sensations you begin having are connected to your lizard brain reaction (You feel a migraine coming on, you start chewing your nails, you start anticipating when you will have an opportunity to go online and look at some porn.) You won’t associate any of these emotional and physical responses to what is going on around you or the childhood feelings that have been triggered.

This cycle perpetuates itself several times a day, day in and day out. Most folks spend most of their lives living in their lizard brain. They assume every emotional impulse they feel is normal and appropriate. They never question if their reptilian reactions of fighting, running, or hiding are the best way to respond to the events happening around them.

The good news, according to my cousin Dannie, is that we get to use our intellect and human reasoning to become aware of our emotional programming. Thanks to our evolved, higher brain, our lizard brain doesn’t always have to drive the bus.

In other words, you might not have a lot of control over how your lizard brain responds in times of stress, but you do have options how you respond to these impulses.

Your emotional and physical responses (feelings, actions, reactions) will either perpetuate and reinforce your childhood emotional response or give you a new way to interpret and react to the world. Instead of just unconsciously responding to every emotional impulse you have, you can be an observer of your emotions and decide how you want to respond to them. This is fundamentally the difference between being a child and being an adult.

The way you think about things and the names you give your experience will either perpetuate these old emotional states or allow you to reframe them in a new light (Your boss seems unhappy. You observe yourself starting to feel anxious. Your shoulders elevate toward your ears. But instead of going into approval seeking mode, you take a breath and tell yourself you will handle whatever happens.).

I have actually come to welcome the events in my life (like the previously described office issue) that trigger my amygdala because they provide me with an opportunity to observe my childhood emotional programming as it rises to the surface. It is only through this process that I get to become aware of, and clean out my old, distorted emotional baggage.

I actually do a little fist pumping and celebration dance every time I get emotionally triggered (even when the experience makes me feel like shit) because I assume that this process of emotional integration allows me to lighten my emotional load for life’s journey.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this article where I will present the three steps for taming the “lizard” and moving toward emotional integration.

Dr. Robert Glover
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Old May 7th, 2008, 01:46 AM
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Great article!

One thing though:
Quote:
Instead of just unconsciously responding to every emotional impulse you have, you can be an observer of your emotions and decide how you want to respond to them.
Not very helpful if you go in an amygdalian freeze mode.

Other than that it makes sense, looking forward to the 3rd installment.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by tokolos View Post
Great article! One thing though: Not very helpful if you go in an amygdalian freeze mode. Other than that it makes sense, looking forward to the 3rd installment.
You are right. In Part 3, I will talk about "self-soothing."

Robert
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Old May 8th, 2008, 07:20 PM
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This, at least for me, is the most significant series of insight I've seen from Glover yet, with the possible exception of the initial 'stop being a manipulative pussy and take some responsibility for your own life' that primes us to start our journey.

Glover, well down the of maturity, wisdom and even plain old age still gets that burst of excitement when given the chance to feel, sooth and integrate his amygdala based reactions to things. I love seeing the fist pumping reference. Being able to empathize with a powerful role model who candidly accepts his weaknesses from a position of strength serves as a powerful reinforcement of motivation and self belief.


Looking forward to part three.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGlover View Post
I have actually come to welcome the events in my life (like the previously described office issue) that trigger my amygdala because they provide me with an opportunity to observe my childhood emotional programming as it rises to the surface. It is only through this process that I get to become aware of, and clean out my old, distorted emotional baggage.
Interesting. Recently I allowed myself to feel and experience the full emotions associated with perceiving that I had been rejected by another woman. I didn't fight them, I just experienced them. Then later that evening they went away and I was back feeling confident and believing in myself. So I fired off a fun teasing e-mail to her just because I wanted to and thought I wouldn't hear from her again.

Now that's all that's important. That she did send a positive email back accepting my offer of going out is kind of a side benefit. But I was complete regardless of her actions.

(Having said all that, in retrospect I think she was testing me and I think I passed. But of course, we don't take women's tests. We do as we want being men.)
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Old May 9th, 2008, 03:03 AM
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full emotions associated with perceiving that I had been rejected by another woman.
Double Entendre?


Quote:
(Having said all that, in retrospect I think she was testing me and I think I passed. But of course, we don't take women's tests. We do as we want being men.)
Ahh, the 'I see them, but I do my own thing' approach to testing. That I like. Awareness, no bitterness, confidence but independent direction.
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Old May 18th, 2008, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DrGlover View Post
Last month I wrote about how my experience of moving to a new office with some of my colleagues triggered some familiar family patterns from my childhood. These familiar patterns activated my “lizard brain” in a way that not only created an anxiety response in me, but also led to a number of fairly dysfunctional projections and behaviors on my part. My reptilian emotional response was increasingly intensified by the reptilian behaviors of my colleagues who no doubt were also stressed by the change of working environment that we were all going through.

At the conclusion of the first part of this article, I promised I would share with you how I used this anxiety producing situation as an opportunity to consciously work on my personal emotional integration.
In Part One I of this article I described the process of how the brain stores up emotional memories of childhood experiences. Briefly, the first part of the brain to develop and be fully functioning in an infant is a tiny, almond shaped lump at the top of the brain stem called the amygdala. This primitive, yet essential part of the brain, regulates functions needed for basic survival. The amygdala, sometimes referred to as the “reptilian” or “lizard brain,” is fully functioning long before other parts of the brain develop.

The amygdala has no language capability but seems to store up emotional memories that later influence other parts of the brain and the central nervous system. The amygdala is the center of the “fight/flight/freeze” mechanism that is so crucial to our survival. When we are young, we internalize life events at a feeling level into this part of our brain. As children, we didn’t have the reasoning skills, maturity, or experience to evaluate the experiences. We just stored up emotional memories and their associated survival responses.

As an adult, when you experiences stresses, anxieties, life changes, or other events that mimic the emotional memories you had as a child, your amygdala will respond in much the same way that it did when you were a few years old. You will still either lash out, run, or duck for cover – in much the same way you did in infancy and childhood.

Most of the time, you are unconscious of your lizard brain emotions and the behaviors they trigger. You assume that every emotional response you experience when your amygdala is triggered is totally rational and completely related to your current situation – even when everyone around you is trying to figure out why you are reacting the way you are.
My cousin, Dr. Dannie Glover (a physician, not an actor), states that the emotional foundation that is created in the first few years of life influences our emotional makeup until the day we die. These early memories become the DOS of our emotional operating system. A classic example of how this works is the “Catholic guilt” of an adult who was raised in the church as a child but now only attends mass twice a year out of nagging sense obligation.

Here is how your childhood emotional memories affect you today. As you live your daily life, signals from your sensory receptors (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, skin, etc) are sent to various regions of your brain. Many of these signals reach your amygdala more quickly than they do the other parts of your brain. This is helpful if a saber-toothed tiger springs out of the bushes – you want to be able to react without having to think too much about the situation.

Having a highly reactive emotional response is good news if there really is a life-threatening event – you want to be able to react quickly without the need for time consuming analysis. This response isn’t so helpful if it is just a kitty cat in the bushes and your mind and body are reacting as if it is a man-eating feline.

When you experience present day events – the frown of a boss, the anger of a loved one, an embarrassing moment – that are even the least bit similar to memories you stored up from childhood, they trigger a lightening fast emotional response in your amygdala (much like the tiger/kitty in the bushes).

Here is what happens in your brain when present day experiences mirror childhood memories:

You experience a life event and your senses send information to various parts of your brain.

Your mind interprets the feelings generating in your lizard brain (fear, anxiety, etc.) and gives them a name and meaning (Since my boss is frowning, I must have done something wrong. Oh, no, I’m in big trouble. I fucked up again.).

Based on the type of emotion that is triggered in you and the name and meaning you give to these feelings, you unconsciously spring into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Your unconscious choice of survival behaviors will typically reflect the choices you made in childhood. “Fight” behaviors might include becoming aggressive, hostile, controlling, argumentative, giving “dirty looks,” or assuming an confrontational body posture. “Flight” responses could include avoiding, seeking approval, using “covert contracts,” lying, or becoming subtly manipulative. “Freeze” behaviors could include hiding, getting the “deer in the headlights” look, crying, apologizing, having a panic attack, or just completely shutting down.

The behaviors associated with these three survival reactions will probably be very similar in nature to the behaviors you exhibited as a child when you experienced these same emotions (Childhood: Mommy is mad, it must be my fault. I’ll draw her a nice card. Adulthood: My boss looks upset, I better look busy, work later tonight, put in some extra effort.).

Your thoughts about what you are experiencing will be highly influenced by your old emotional operating system. Your mind likes consistency, so it will want to match how it perceives what is happening to you to what you are feeling (You are feeling anxious, so your boss must be mad at you. It might never cross your mind that your boss might be frowning about something that has nothing to do with you – he just found out his teenage son got suspended from school.).

Your mind translates thoughts and feelings into physical responses: Adrenaline and cortisol pour into your bloodstream, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, blood is pumped from your internal organs into your large muscle groups.

You typically will have no clue that physical sensations you begin having are connected to your lizard brain reaction (You feel a migraine coming on, you start chewing your nails, you start anticipating when you will have an opportunity to go online and look at some porn.) You won’t associate any of these emotional and physical responses to what is going on around you or the childhood feelings that have been triggered.

This cycle perpetuates itself several times a day, day in and day out. Most folks spend most of their lives living in their lizard brain. They assume every emotional impulse they feel is normal and appropriate. They never question if their reptilian reactions of fighting, running, or hiding are the best way to respond to the events happening around them.

The good news, according to my cousin Dannie, is that we get to use our intellect and human reasoning to become aware of our emotional programming. Thanks to our evolved, higher brain, our lizard brain doesn’t always have to drive the bus.

In other words, you might not have a lot of control over how your lizard brain responds in times of stress, but you do have options how you respond to these impulses.

Your emotional and physical responses (feelings, actions, reactions) will either perpetuate and reinforce your childhood emotional response or give you a new way to interpret and react to the world. Instead of just unconsciously responding to every emotional impulse you have, you can be an observer of your emotions and decide how you want to respond to them. This is fundamentally the difference between being a child and being an adult.

The way you think about things and the names you give your experience will either perpetuate these old emotional states or allow you to reframe them in a new light (Your boss seems unhappy. You observe yourself starting to feel anxious. Your shoulders elevate toward your ears. But instead of going into approval seeking mode, you take a breath and tell yourself you will handle whatever happens.).

I have actually come to welcome the events in my life (like the previously described office issue) that trigger my amygdala because they provide me with an opportunity to observe my childhood emotional programming as it rises to the surface. It is only through this process that I get to become aware of, and clean out my old, distorted emotional baggage.

I actually do a little fist pumping and celebration dance every time I get emotionally triggered (even when the experience makes me feel like shit) because I assume that this process of emotional integration allows me to lighten my emotional load for life’s journey.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this article where I will present the three steps for taming the “lizard” and moving toward emotional integration.

Dr. Robert Glover
Great stuff!
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Old May 14th, 2009, 10:41 PM
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WHERE is Part 3 of this series?
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Old May 14th, 2009, 10:43 PM
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General Discussion index.

http://www.nomoremrniceguy.com/forum...isplay.php?f=3
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Old February 16th, 2011, 08:44 PM
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Instead of just unconsciously responding to every emotional impulse you have, you can be an observer of your emotions and decide how you want to respond to them. This is fundamentally the difference between being a child and being an adult.
This is a great reminder for me to be aware of my emotions BUT remember that I decide how to respond. I am in control of my response. This is good. Thanks Dr. Glover
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