Sunday, February 28, 2010
Appraisal, Impulse, Action
When we believe a situation requires some sort of defensive reaction, our nervous system's "fight/flight/freeze/faint" impulse is triggered. This appraisal that there is a potential danger leads to an impulse to a defensive action. Although this may seem like an instantaneous reaction, we can consciously and significantly impact this process. But first, we have to be aware it is happening!
There are two places in our defensive reactions where we can train ourselves to use breathing and compassionate observation techniques. The first place is at the beginning: we can question and/or re-evaluate our appraisal of the situation and this will mitigate/minimize the defensive impulse. The second place (and the easiest of the two to identify at first) is to use the breathing and compassionate observation to create a pause between the impulse and the action. This pause allows us to choose a response instead of defaulting to our conditioned response.
These techniques are not difficult to do, but they are not easy to remember to use because they take practice and a returning of our attention again and again to our inner workings. It is a major re-training. It changes focus from what we stand against to what we stand for - empowering instead of enabling, facilitating instead of obstructing and expanding instead of contracting our energy in the face of unwanted/unexpected stimuli.