Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That Hair-on-Fire Moment...

You know that moment? That moment you are faced with a sudden problem that sends your blood pressure soaring and your heart rate rocketing? That moment of panic when life suddenly feels out of control?

Perhaps you experience a vehicle accident. Or maybe your credit card has been stolen. It could also be that moment you get a call from the school. 

I received that call just yesterday. I was fine when the phone rang and was fine while I said 'hello' but as I listened to the message of the speaker on the other end, adrenaline hit my veins and my fight or flight urges went into full effect. My day had flipped upside down just like that. 

At first I wanted to protest. To thrash against the message like a wild horse on a tether. Then I wanted to spew words. To tie my emotions to bow and arrows and shoot them into the receiver. I also wanted to escape. To hang up on the caller and toss my talking device into a nearby trash receptacle. 

Denial. Negative emotions. Avoidance. These all have come into our lives at some point or another after experiencing a shocking event.  These reactions, though, cause suffering. They intensify the perception of the seriousness of the problem; they put us at risk  for making less-than-ideal decisions; and they send out a ripple of negativity that spreads through each person with whom we make contact. 

So, I applied the opposite of each reaction as anecdote to my affliction. First, I calmed my breathing and softened my muscles. I sat firmly in my chair and began to gather facts. When my mind starting attaching possible meaning to those facts, I stopped it from doing so. I just kept coming back to the idea of each fact as having not played itself out, yet, in time. I had no idea how the facts would effect me or those I love, and by only attaching a neutral here-and-now-ness to each one the flames of my fears, my panic didn't not flare. 

Instead of allowing anger to boil up and effect my intentions, I instead chose to detach myself from expectations that I had about the issue. I expected to not get the call. I expected things to be smooth. I wanted things to go as I had planned. My attachment to the expectation really caused my anger to rise. So, I let go. My expectations don't rule the world and I kept saying this in my mind each time I asked myself 'Why?!'

And instead of wanting to escape, I laid out a plan of action. First, I'd do X, then I'd do Y, and if things continued as planned I'd either do Z or start a new plan. 

The next time you have a hair-on-fire moment, try doing the following:
1. Breathe slowly and deeply. 
2. Stay still and relax your muscles. 
3. Detach from expectations and just see the facts as they are now. 
4. Make a plan and also a plan for when your plan falls through. 

I did. And the following things happened:
A. I felt comfortable and secure. 
B. People I interacted with became more comfortable and secure. 
C. The matter was handled with clarity and in an ideal manner. 

It was the most lovely hair-on-fire moment I've ever experienced and I hope you'll try it the next time you feel those same flames of adrenaline. 

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