Remember a time you were in a conflict with someone. Can you recall how your body felt? It’s universal: When we feel threatened by conflict we shift into Reactive Brain, where we automatically go into a fight, flight, or freeze response. Immediately our pulse quickens, our blood pressure rises, stress chemicals pour through our bodies, our muscles tighten. These physiological changes are programmed into us from millions of years of evolution. You wouldn’t be sitting here reading this if your body didn’t know how to get you to dodge out of the path of a bus or press your brake pedal without thinking.
Much as these instinctive reactions ensure our survival, they can wreak havoc on intimate connection. The snarling lip, the biting word, the stab of the rapier wit all herald the rising up of our threatened animal selves; the rolling over, cowering and slinking away are equally indicative of what we animals do to show submission and ward off the predator’s attack.
All of these animal-like reactions are signs to do something else besides attempt to solve the conflict. It’s quite impossible to come up with a creative solution to an issue when we’re in Reactive Brain. Instead, our minds unhelpfully tell us to “get out now,” or “it’s my way or the highway” or generate other equally rigid and black and white ideas.
It usually takes 15-30 minutes to metabolize the adrenaline of the threat response. Instead of trying to “process” an issue, you could use this time much more effectively by moving, breathing, playing, dancing, singing, appreciating, wondering, or noticing. All of these are Shift Moves (as taught by Gay and Katie Hendricks) that will help you shift out of Reactive and into Creative Brain. Once back in Creative Brain, new possibilities will open up before you, and real solutions will again become available.