BPD causes us to feel like we are drowning in our emotions
Every single one of us has experienced this. In one instance, you are fine, dealing with your customer load, answering questions, taking orders and then, all of a sudden, something happens and you suddenly turn into Godzilla. You have been triggered and you can’t stop yourself from reacting or lashing out at the other person. What’s worse, when the incident is over, sometimes hours later, you still can’t shake the feelings and continue to relive the moment in your mind again and again and the emotions feel as raw and horrible as they did when it first happened. The downward spiral begins. Eventually, you calm down and are left with the realization of the damage you have caused.In the present day of coronavirus anxiety, these kinds of things may be happening to you more often than before. You may be experiencing more emotional storms in your interpersonal relationships. This is called “flooding.” It feels absolutely terrible when it is happening, like there is no way to stop it but there is good news about this kind of thing. It is possible to control it and even learn how to stop it dead in its tracks when it first starts to happen.
It is important to understand how the brain works
The first step is to develop a bit of an understanding about how our complex brains function.Our brains have three distinct areas which function independently but are also highly synchronized with each other. The most important place in our brains is called The Lower Brain Stem. It is responsible for keeping up alive: breathing and other autonomic or automatic functions like our heartbeat. The second part of the brain is called the Limbic system and that part of the brain takes care of processing our emotions and things like learning… It also controls our sense of motivation. The last part of the brain is called the Prefrontal Cortex and that part of the brain houses our executive functions, things like logic, keeping track of schedules, how we perceive language. The Prefrontal Cortex determines how we decide what is right and what is wrong.
How humans evolved “Survival Mind”
This is essentially what is known as the fight or flight reflex. It developed over thousands of years as a way of helping people stay safe from predators,It is an entirely involuntary reflex. All you can learn is how to identify it while it is happening and how to manage it. When we perceive fear (or anxiety in its most primal form), several things happens almost simultaneously. When a human perceives fear, their nervous system launches the fight or flight response. This causes blood to be sent to the body’s extremities (hands and feet and large muscle groups like the legs) to prepare the person to run away. This is an instinctive response geared to help the human survive an attack. Blood is sent away from other organs such as the liver and stomach to preserve energy that will be needed for running away. Functioning is diminished in the Prefrontal Cortex which means the person is less able to think about the stimulus which has presented itself, unable to reflect on it or contemplate its consequences because the primary objective is to put distance between itself and the threat.Humans developed the ability to recognize and remove themselves from contagion as well. This ability helped groups of people evolve to react to danger immediately which helped them survive.
People also possess something called Engaged Mind
Engaged mind is a physiological state in which both the frontal brain and the parasympathetic brains are working in tandem. This state is also considered to be contagious because it spreads to those we are around including our loved ones.
How does one move from survival mind to engaged mind?
There are several actions that need to be taken. The first is preventing yourself from moving into survival mind in the first place. This is achieved by taking care of yourself, meeting your own physical needs on a daily basis: getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough daily exercise. Many people will experience flooding when they are either overly hungry or overtired or just plain stressed out. Being around people who routinely cross your boundaries is one of the key triggers. Learning assertiveness is a good place to start. Learn how to recognize the symptoms because this is key in preventing flooding. Some people experience acute anxiety, or a sense of tunnel vision, some people will see bright flashes in their eyes or behind their eyelids. Others experience a tightly clenched jaw.Learning good communication skills will allow you to communicate to your partner how you are feeling instead of acting it out. Most people will only be able to communicate these kinds of feelings retroactively at the beginning, It improves with practice and a partner who does not invalidate your feelings.
How to move from the flooded state to engaged mind
Many different strategies can help you move back to an engaged mind. Asking for a time out and taking a short break from the discussion can often work wonders. This doesn’t mean you should run away from the discussion forever but a short bit of time away from it will help you gain some perspective and allow you to clear your mind and coalesce your thoughts. It’s important to return to the discussion when you have stopped flooding.Have something to drink. You may have become dehydrated and no one performs well when they are dehydrated. Remember: by the time you realize you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.Eat something during your time out. Having something like cheese and crackers gives you a protein which can help your brain focus better.Go out for a brisk walk. Sometimes just a quick change of scenery is all it takes to recharge and destress. Do some deep breathing or do a short mindfulness meditation. These activities have a calming effect on the brain and will help your body realize that you are NOT under attack, you are just being flooded by BIG emotions.Tell some jokes to your partner or do something that makes you laugh. This will help you not take yourself so seriously, something most of us have a tendency to do when we are stressed out and everything feels HUGE. It is crucial to remember that the flooded state of mind will pass. All emotions eventually do. Though you may feel consumed by them at the moment, they will, if given enough time either pass completely or dissipate.