Over Emotion and the STOP Skill

Over Emotion and the Adrenaline Crash

When our bodies have all of the right biochemicals and our brains have the right neurotransmitter levels, we are a wonder of nature. Unlike other animals, we take in not only our surroundings, but also anticipate the future, guess at areas beyond our senses and make wise decisions that improve our lives. When our bodies biochemistry and neurotransmitters are out, we will often compensate with adrenaline. When the adrenaline runs out, we uses strong emotions to force our body to create new resources to keep going, which outside of a genuine emergency can be a problem.

Adrenaline is a fantastic emergency agent. It allows us to physically push a bit harder, it can improve our response time to physical action, it focuses us on the present local moment and it can allow us to endure physical and emotional pain for just a bit longer. As a short term solution, it is often useful. Unfortunately, adrenaline thinking is now thinking, it is simplified solutions for obvious problems. There is not much nuance to our adrenaline fueled solutions.

Our emergency centre evolved a long time ago, when most emergencies were brief. After the initial crisis, we will patch up our injuries, take time to physically recover from the exertion and we humans will reflect on what we can do better to avoid that disaster again. In the rare times that a crisis continue, there was a clear environmental factor like a bushfire or war going on. Our emotional responses of fear, anger and sorrow would match these, but also push us to keep going on with the emergency for longer than a brief crisis.

Modern humans are a bit weird. We live in a society where we need to keep producing results even after we have food and shelter. To maintain productive functionality, in the face of illness, social discomfort or biological limitations, we initially trigger the emergency centres reserve of adrenaline.

When that isn’t enough, our crisis centre triggers a longer boost with a secondary emotion like we would in a natural disaster.

We are now entering the Over Emotion from the Adrenaline Crash.

We are terrible are realising that the reason that we are in crisis is not because the world is on fire, but because we are pushing too hard for the biochemical and neurotransmitter resources our body currently has. Our brains try to rationalise why we are feeling so emotional and create a story to match how we feel, ignoring what is really going on – we just pushed too hard and there is no actual emergency.

Believing the emotion illusion, we feel a push to do something that will fix that body need, justifying that on whatever story we created to explain the emotion. Frequently this isn’t healthy.

When we realise that we have hit this emotional point, we need to STOP, so that we can switch from an emotional Re-Action to a wise Thought-Out-Action.

The STOP Skill

The Stop Skill is a very useful way to STOP us from making actions that we, or someone else, will regret.

S – Slow down; the feeling of urgency in the absence of direct threat are an illusion

T – Take stock; food you take your medication, are you hungry, are you pushing too hard, do you need to sleep, do you need to change the ambient stimulation (more stimulation or less), do you need some caffeine / nicotine? Once you’ve identified what is good for your biology, do it.

O – Orientation; Now that you know the emotions are an illusion, and you have looked at the biological needs to address your neurotransmitters, what do you need to actually do now, biasing against the illusory emotions? What is presently important? Do you need to get back to that assignment, finish the project, take a bit of time out, negotiate for a few minutes, do some vigorous exercise etc. Ruminating isn’t part of the deal, if you really want to explore those thoughts, write down a brief paragraph note and talk to your therapist/bestie later about it.

P – Proceed Intentionally; It is easy to feel like you just *have* to do something that makes little objective sense. Ideally you have a Wellness Plan for this situation, follow those steps. If not, safely address the biological need, take a moment to recover your senses, then continue on with what you should have been doing if reasonable, or make a new plan when you’ve got your thinking back.

Wellness Plan: If you have a Wellness Plan [Link], build the smart decisions into it.

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