Juliane Taylor Shore recently taught me about the different states of being that indicate when I am not in my optimal neurological state. Although I have been studying myself to identify instances when I feel the urge to alter or criticize people, I was unaware that this impulse was a product of an evolutionary mechanism aimed at seeking safety. Now, with this knowledge, you too can comprehend the underlying reasons behind such behaviours.
Nociception is a subconscious process that occurs four times per second to assess our safety. Fight and flight responses are triggered by the sympathetic nervous system when there is a perception of danger or threat in our surroundings. If there is no imminent physical danger, but our system perceives a sense of threat, we may enter a lower level of fight or flight, which may manifest as having an agenda and being judgmental.
In the state of agenda, we attempt to alter circumstances or an other person's behaviour to match our desired outcome, reflecting the low-level fight response of the sympathetic nervous system. The energy that has been mobilized is not directed towards physical aggression, but instead, it is channeled into psychological microaggression.
In judgment mode, we tend to categorize things into "us versus them," creating psychological distance between ourselves and the world. This hinders our ability to connect with others and the world. The energy that would have been mobilized for running away is now being utilized to create emotional distance.
When we experience a perceived threat and feel agenda and judgement within, our facial expressions and tone of voice can change, even if we do not act on the impulse. The person in front of us will subconsciously sense the low-level threat and may also enter a state of agenda and judgement, thus creating a feedback loop.
To prevent this cycle, it is beneficial to increase our threshold for perceived danger by ensuring that we are not tired, hungry, lonely, or angry when interacting with others. We can also use the zero-cost Rewire for Resilience exercises, in the Wired for Wholeness forum, to expand our window of tolerance. This allows the sympathetic nervous system to respond only to real threats and the parasympathetic nervous system to create a state of calm and connection.
If we find ourselves in a state of agenda or judgement, self-compassion is a powerful tool. It is crucial to avoid having an agenda or being judgmental towards ourselves. Instead, we can acknowledge our thoughts and feelings by saying, "Of course I thought or felt that way in this situation." In addition, we can permit ourselves to remain in this temporary state while taking a moment to feel the support of the earth beneath our seat and feet. These two responses influence our emotional brain from both the top-down and bottom-up, leading us towards a more regulated and balanced state. With practice, we can create new habits and become more oriented towards calm and connection in subsequent events.
Through the practice of mindful self-compassion, we can continually rewire our nervous systems to help us remember our wholeness. If you seek a safe space to offer yourself compassion and understanding, please reach out for a private consultation.