Escaping a Hijack

Yesterday, I cried. No obvious reason presented itself in the moment, except that my brain decided I needed to open up the tear valves and relieve the shock waves of pressure I put on myself - an imaginary, illegitimate pressure caused by momentary cases of malfunctioning circuitry inside my head.

What gives? I have temporarily eradicated any work-related pressure, and all the other external peripherals suggest I should be, by all accounts, enjoying a carefree ride, at least for the near term. And yet it seems my brain is on a constant search for ways to get me all worked up. Such is life when an anxiety disorder is always running in the background, like a useless, oversized, preloaded computer program, wreaking semi-(un)predictable havoc on an otherwise smoothly running system.

My tears lasted just moments, and B helped me to pull me out of my drive-by-funk and had me laughing and smiling again in no time. I recently learned that intense emotions have a biological life expectancy of about 90 seconds, and my mini anxiety tornado and its short-lived trajectory before dissipating into the cloud recesses of my mind suggests this new found knowledge just might be accurate.

It's a compelling little rule of thumb, The 90 Second Rule, that even the crappiest and turdiest of feelings can let go just as quickly as they grabbed hold in the first place...particularly if we are conscious enough to pull the plug on the negative circuitry to keep the pattern from reocurring. In related news, this rule on the biology of emotions was discussed in Jill Bolte Taylor's book My Stroke of Insight, which I haven't yet read, but is now on my must-have read list after watching her incredibly popular and compelling Ted Talk of the same name (it's well worth the 18 minute view).

"Curiosity" is a cognitive behavioral tool I often use to help quell the potential for an "amygdala hijack" and the resulting deep dive into the abyss of destructive thinking. I've learned to read the signs that I'm about to get sucked into a black hole of my own making. Usually, it's a mix of biological responses (tightness in my chest, a feeling that my body temperature is rising) combined with hyperbolized self talk in the form of catastrophizing and/or speaking in absolute terms ("never" "always" "best" "worst"). If I have the awareness to recognize these signs, then my next step is to allow myself to be a curious observer to my emotional experience. I like curiosity as an approach, because by definition, curiosity is all about genuine, open-minded, non-judgmental exploration. Approaching my emotions with curiosity keeps me from getting caught up the negative hype of the annoying shock jock deejay that is waiting to hijack the turntables that are the hemispheres of my brain.

So, I slipped a little this time around, and opened the door to a temporary hijack. But, even when things are good (which they, like, SO are right now, omg) the anxiety program is always running in the background, waiting to hijack my system. Diligence, practice, therapy, awareness, curiosity...that's what helps me to escape a long term hijack.