By Cassandra Garduno LMFT
The amygdala is our natural smoke detection system that is built in and responsible for detecting and activating appropriate fear-based responses in response to a threat. For some individuals their smoke detectors are more sensitive; due to trauma, inability to regulate emotions, or through a mood-based disorder. Their smoke detector cannot distinguish if the house is burning, or if mom has burnt the meatloaf in the oven. Yet any activation of real or perceived danger causes the same alarm system to sound. Once activated, that individual will experience an intense discharge of emotions and the need to resolve the crisis.
What happens when our emotions go up, logic will then go out the window. Acting on impulse to resolve the discomfort immediately can be damaging to self and others. In the aftermath of an emotional outburst, we often struggle with feelings of guilt, and it breaks others trust in us. In her book Marsha Linehan, introduces the STOP technique to help individuals with short term arousal management and distress tolerance to prevent making the situation worse. Taking a step back to observe what is going on and acting with awareness will help the individual determine if their house is on fire or if mom just burnt the meatloaf.
Stop- Freeze and resist the urge to act on impulse
Take a step back- Step back from the situation and breathe. Breathing for 30 seconds can help derail the thought train and reduce the impulsive need to discharge the intensity of emotions
Observe- What is going on in the situation with yourself and others
Proceed mindfully- Proceed with actions of control; take into considerations thoughts and feels of both you and others. What do you want out of the situation and which actions will make the situation better?