People who love high risk sports and extreme adventures become addicted to the experience in their own bodies. A similar process happens with emotional striking out. The fight reflex and the flood of chemicals and hormones it releases in the body is a powerful drug.
When we are overwhelmed or triggered into feeling powerless, some people go to the fight reflex. If we let it rip when it comes up, over time we become more and more addicted to it and feel helpless to stop it.
People with this reflex generally have regrets about the impact of cutting remarks, ridiculing people, and lashing out. Their relationships suffer and they may be estranged from people who need some distance from them.
This impulse becomes well established over decades of life then something happens. We really get it that we need to stop. The cost in our life and relationships is too high.
There is so much power in the momentum of the mind. We are human beings with an animal body and nervous system. We have that animal instinct to protect ourselves, and for many people that comes as a fight response.
Shaming ourselves can drive it deeper. Start with forgiving yourself for having a primitive brain that goes into fight reflex. At some point in your childhood, you formed the belief that this was the best way to protect yourself. With repetition, the power and the momentum continued and your brain developed a neural network to support this. By now it might be an eight lane freeway.
We feed on the surge of adrenaline in our system. We see that look on their face when we say something that cuts to the bone. We traded feeling weak for the raw power of fighting back and of being the top dog. It starts as a defence mechanism and over time it manifests as relational aggression or even bullying. We become more and more isolated and disconnected.
Why do we need defence mechanisms? Because there is a perceived threat. What was necessary when we were children is likely not necessary now. Adults have more genuine power to limit threat in the people and dynamics in our environment.
Part of emotional maturity is to bring our mindful attention to the urge to strike out as it arises, to commit to working with the underlying impulse and to calming ourselves in another way.
There is no need to shame yourself for having a primitive brain and a survival response. Shaming ourselves is counter productive. It feels so bad we need to escape from that feeling. One way we do that is to strike out.
We are evolving human beings. We care about ourselves. We don’t want the effect of these hormones in our system or theirs. We care about the people around us. We care about being a good human being and acting in alignment with kindness and our higher values. We are capable of changing this pattern.
Awareness is always the first step in change. Cultivate the willingness to be present with it without shaming yourself. Be kind to yourself. These are necessary foundations.
Widen your window of tolerance. Look at what triggers you into the fight reflex. These associations are memories of times past when you thought you needed that fight response to survive. Bring up the images and use tools like tapping and tracing. Become familiar with the energy or sensation in your body. As we attend to it with awareness, this stored trauma leaves our body.
Deep personal work opens up space for a thoughtful response rather than our initial fight reaction. We become more grounded in our body and in our mind. This emotional steadiness starts to dissolve the decades of momentum. Over time we become free of our addiction to this chemical avalanche of adrenaline and cortisol in our brain.
We feel shame when we hurt someone, especially people we love. We can suppress this feeling or use it as fuel for change. We are clear. We are willing to do whatever it takes to dissolve it and finally to be free. We extend every effort to dissolve this harmful pattern. We forgive ourselves. We become willing to be kind and compassionate with ourselves as we heal.