Ha! I sit on a fitness ball to roll and bounce as I work at my computer. At my radio station, where I anchor the news, I push aside the tall, wheeled chair, to stand in front of the mic, shifting my weight as I speak. I have my fingers in a tizzy with all the things I command them to do. I dance. I write. I am so not the right person for meditation. You know, the sit on the floor, legs crossed, humming a mantra thing that intrinsically calm people do.
But, three things conspired to happen at the same time.
I became aware that I was responding in relationships from the place of the traumatized five-year old girl I used to be. I began reciting the Lord’s Prayer and talking to Archangel Michael – over and over – even when I danced. And, I picked up “Rewire Your Brain For Love” by Marsha Lucas, PhD, which gently leads one into meditation.
I was not convinced I could meditate.
Let alone that meditation would heal the crappy first part of my life. But, here’s the thing: in this funny scientific book – yes, I said Funny and Scientific in the same sentence – it becomes obvious that there are excellent reasons for really stupid things we do in relationships. For one thing, that Fight or Flight deal? It’s hardwired! For me, it seems that my brain is hardwired not just to Flee but to send me out-of-body when there is any interpersonal stress. Flight – but, the turbo-kind. Makes sense.
Before I was five years old, I would be raped by a stepfather; who would, a year later, beat my real dad bloody, threatening him to never return; and, who, with my suicidal, alcoholic, schizophrenic mother, would scare the crap out of me every minute of the day that I wasn’t in school. I had PTSD more than a decade before they coined the phrase. Can you say Abandonment and Attachment issues? This is extreme, I realize. But if I can rewire my brain, certainly anyone can.
When you’re a kid, you learn a strategy to adapt, says Dr. Lucas.
You lavish love. Try to please. Avoid the scene. Run like hell.
As an adult, you might freak out – and instantly jam on the brakes or hit the gas. There actually is a third natural brain reaction, Dr. Lucas says, and that is due to the smart vagus. The trick is – when your boyfriend’s temper pops, like your father’s, or your girlfriend rips into you like your mother did – to learn how to fall into a calm state so the vagus can do its brilliant communication work in the relationship.
How do you put the pause-button on? Lucas has a collection of comfortable meditations. I won’t go into them here – I don’t want you to drift off on me. But, here’s a cool deal. She suggests four different ways of slowing down. The first is to breathe more slowly, because that stops the fear impulse. Second, relax your tongue, and that sends a message through your vagus nerve that everything is okay. Same deal with opening your mouth slightly. Fourth, you can imagine increased warmth to your hands. This blew my mind. When frightened, your sympathetic nervous system draws heat from the extremities, sending it to your large muscles, so you have energy to flee. And, if you send warmth to your hands, the message is that you are not in danger. My entire life, I’ve had cold hands and cold feet.
Your brain is plastic, not immutable, the way they used to think. That means you have an awesome chance of rewiring yourself to react healthfully in relationships. Hello to Love. Real Love. And to warm hands.
Read more posts by Diana Page Jordan, professional book reviewer, interviewer, ghostwriter and award-winning broadcast journalist. Diana is a blogger for JenningsWire.