In today's fast-paced world, we often react with agitation and aggression.
Something as simple as buying coffee might irritate us as our aggression may rise with impatience when the person in front of us has a million questions for the barista.
You may feel agitated, and then aggressive when someone cuts you off in traffic, nearly missing a crash by centimeters.
Can you think of something (in the past few days, weeks, or months) that has rightfully caused you to feel justifiably irked and irritated to a point of agitation? Or aggression?
The Reptilian Brain
Such strong emotion is nature's away of self-preservation and self-protection. When we have strong, immediate, intense reactions, our reptilian brain is doing its job.
Remember that reptiles work in action and immediate reaction. Yes, reptiles even eat their young! (yikes!)
Human beings also have a mammalian brain, accompanied by a sophisticated limbic brain for higher thought and functioning.
Evolution has enabled us to keep our reptilian brain for survival, and I am certain that our ancient ancestors out on the plains of the savannah succeeded because of it!
In today's society, however, we continue to carry our quick adaptive reptilian flight or fight response with us.
Many of us act instinctively and may not even be aware that we're not in control of our reactions.
The irritation we feel may turn into agitation and then we become aggregated.
Acting Out the War Within
Unconsciously, we are at the whim of nature's survival instincts.
- Sadly, we snap at our loved ones.
- We may secretly throw invisible darts to the loud irritating person talking on the phone at next table.
- We may "dial it down" and simply give someone a dirty look.
Aside from the patterned behavior of instinct, we might do these things because we may subconsciously feel powerless in certain situations.
Making faces, thinking unkind thoughts, and sending negative energy is an unconscious way of being.
Like a child, when we do such things, we may feel better because it might help to relieve stress.
As adults, when we allow ourselves to indulge in childish behaviors, even if it may feel good at the time, we are not doing ourselves any favors.
There are no judgments to the above statement.
Just notice the next time you feel the hairs on your neck rise from anger. Everyone feels this way at one point or another. It is human to do so.
The awareness of agitation and aggression, however, is also a wonderful clue that we've got room to grow up.
If we feel agitated and we react with aggression (either internally or externally), we keep ourselves from growing. When we act like 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds, or even 16-year-olds, our actions, behaviors, and cumulative thought patterns are immature.
We deny ourselves from utilizing our very capable, sophisticated, higher brain functioning of empathy and compassion.
When we further indulge in our frustration by complaining, blaming or criticizing, no solution or resolve is available. We put ourselves at war. We simply lean into it and direct our anger at the other, ripping them a new one.
War Does Not Create Peace
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi
When we don't even try to understand or forgive, we stay at war, with ourselves and others. Simply writing the offender off by deeming them immediately unworthy of our time or respect is a brush off.
When we are in this frame of mind, we are protecting ourselves from the offense. We are exercising our reptilian instincts of fight or flight. The opportunity cost of our reptilian indulgence of reacting so sharply is our continued disconnection, and alienation from one another.
This is the world we are creating for our children when we buy into war.
Is this really how we want our world to evolve? (okay, let's not allow current politics to be an example).
We the people can dream of a better nation, a better existence where society highly values heart-to-heart connection, friendship, and goodwill.
How to Interrupt Your Own Pattern
Rather than reacting with agitation, irritation or even aggression, we might stop to take a breath, and tame that crazy reptile within!
Here is a Four (4) Step Practice to Calming Down:
- Breathing in: long deep inhales
- Breathing Out: Slow, reluctant exhales
- Repeat the mantra silently in your mind, "Let It Go."
- Follow your breath for 3 complete cycles (or for as many breathes as you need).
It may be helpful as you inhale and exhale, to visualize the air being delivered to every cell in your body
Practice these four (4) steps. Interrupt your inner reptile.
You CAN do it! It is possible to tame yourself.
For the 1st 2,000 times, you might feel like you cannot let it go. But, with time, you WILL succeed! You will find peace and grounding and before you know it, you'll wonder why you were so triggered in the 1st place.
Consider that if you are having a hard time or a hard day, it'd be nice that the person behind you helps you, rather than huff and puff because you are "in the way."
If you had a long, difficult day at work, and mistakenly and mindlessly crossed over into another lane and accidentally cut someone off (oops!) wouldn't it be something if they didn't flip you the bird? Or maybe, not play up the drama so that it's a big deal? Maybe they will simply let you in because they want to (and not because they are trying to get away from you).
Genuine niceness. How about that?
Forgiveness. How about that?
Non-attachment. Generosity. Self-Improvement.
Let those values be paramount over our little irritations that fester and cloud our better judgment.
Changing the Pattern Begins With Awareness
Can you think of a few things that are pet peeves to you that others do that instantly irritate you? What is your normal reaction? How might you react differently to interrupt your own pattern and break the cycle of the reptilian brain?
How would responding differently, other than agitation or aggression, change the world? What if our world leaders valued courtesy and kindness over aggression and threat of nukes? How might our world, personally, and at large be different just by our single solitary mindful decision to not let out reptilian brain rule our lives?