So why do we react to change the way we do?
Our reactions to change indicate the youth of our evolutionary process. Our first reaction – fight, flight, freeze, faint comes as an instinctive animal response to change.
Fight-flight-freeze-faint is actually a reptilian response – an automatic brain stem reaction formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Our reptilian brainstem’s immediate sensory-motor reaction is responsible for instinctive drives like hunger, sex, territoriality, and ritualistic behavior. The reptile in us wants to predict what is going to happen next to create a sense of safety – even if it is false safety – because, after all, our world is constantly changing. Our emotional, mammalian limbic-brain showed up after the dinosaurs with the evolution of warm-blooded mammals that care for their young. Our mammalian brain gives us a tend-and-befriend reaction to stress. We find safety in numbers and we seek help from those who soothe and support us. It is the mammal in us that is also responsible for our emotional-cognitive brain’s and value-judgments.
Ultimately, our human capacity to be conscious of change (aware of past-present-and future) is thanks to the development of a ‘new mammalian brain,’ called the cortex. Finally, our pre-frontal cortex, which is a mere 40,000 years old and still evolving, is providing us with greater and greater insight and understanding about Life’s Mysteries as we make meaning out of the changes we go through.
The question is how do we begin, each of us individually, to love and tame the younger parts of us… the cold-blooded animal within us-the snake, the turtle, crocodile or lizard, mad-dog, chimpanzee, or human? This takes another brain entirely – our heart-brain. The wisdom of the heart-brain energetically and telepathically emits acceptance and love, embraces us with compassion and provides us with the courage to become humane beings.
I invite you to engage in this exercise:
First begin to tame your automatic reactions in yourself by having compassion for “you” and for the reality that when faced with change, you will most likely automatically react (fight, flight, freeze or faint).
Next, after you realize you have reacted, begin to be “present” with yourself in a soothing, healing way, to calm your physiological reaction (tend-and-befriend).
Consciously tense and relax the muscles. Shake your body to let the energy release. (gain insight and understanding)
Then talk to yourself in a calming, soothing inner voice (instead of using a harsh, critical or punishing tone). Embrace your human-ness with compassion and acceptance.