Situations and circumstances often stimulate your emotions in some way. If you do not learn to slow your emotions down, you create significant problems for yourself.
It can be almost anything. A near-miss collision with another car, someone telling a lie about you, or you being tempted to do something wrong. Whatever it is, something happens, and feelings seem to show up.
Whenever your emotions get tweaked, you have a choice, but you may not know it. Choose this - slow your emotions down! You can choose good thinking or react and respond. Too often, you never see the choice; you just react to the situation.
That is because your brain stores emotionally significant events in your amygdala - two small lobes in the base of the brain. You have one on the right and the other on the left. The amygdala does not "timestamp" those memories. Therefore, each memory seems true now, even though it happened a year ago. The current situation is similar to that memory, so your amygdala says this situation is just like that one. Watch out!
So, when a stimulus arouses a previous memory, the amygdala prepares your body to react or respond based on that memory.
For example, when I was about eight years old, I was bitten by what appeared to be a friendly dog. In those days, the paper had to be on the porch at least. So, at one of the houses, I noticed a small dog sitting on the sidewalk near the porch. As I got closer, the dog didn't bark or show any aggressive behavior. So, I bent down to pet the dog. At first, it let me, then as I bent down toward it, it jumped up and bit me on the right cheek below my eye.
Even though I’ve had numerous experiences with dogs since then, that memory still creates some caution, especially if I do not know the dog. But now, knowing my emotions can lie to me, I reflect on reality and easily override my memory.
Tests of people’s brains using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) show how the amygdala works. They put a person into the MRI and ask them to think about a situation that stimulates the amygdala. The MRI shows that the amygdala lights up, but the frontal lobe, the "thinking" part of the brain, goes dark. The connections with the “thinking” part of the brain click off, and the person responds using the stored memory as if it is true now.
But, when they coach the person to take three deep breaths, the amygdala goes dark, and the "thinking" part of the brain turns back on. The person now has a better chance to decide rather than react using a stored memory.
When you slow your emotions down, you see reality and think better. Hopefully, you have God’s Word or some decent teaching to reflect on once your emotions are sidelined. Good principles, great values, and truth in tense situations are best. If you do not have that foundation, slowing your emotions will not benefit you. Why? Because you control the amygdala with good thinking and thinking is the key. And, if you have lousy thinking, it leads to lousy actions and lousy emotions even if you slow your emotions down.
But if you have a good foundation and slow your emotions down, you can choose to reflect on what is good. Eventually, emotions or feelings will follow your thinking.
Simple, right? Isn’t that what you were taught as a child? Count to 10 and take a deep breath – those things help slow your emotions down.
It works; try it!