Have you ever reacted in a way that you were not proud? Maybe you said, “OMG, I can’t believe I just did that!” Of course you have. Generally the reason is an emotional overload. The “gatekeeper” in your brain failed you. Let me attempt to explain.
The brain has many aspects to it with various functions to keep us on track. One area of the brain is called the Cingulate Gyrus. It has a gatekeeper function to prevent emotional overload which leads to a response that usually is not desired or warranted. It is located in the middle area of the brain separating your left and right brain. As you know the left side of the brain is the rational and logical side of the brain. The right side of the brain houses the limbic area which contains the emotional components. When we have a “whacked out” moment our emotions were so strong that they blew right through the gatekeeper, Cingulate Gyrus, portion of the brain so that a more rational behavior was not able to emerge.
It is important to know what situation “triggers” emotional overload leading to an impulsive behavior, usually regretted. Each of us has “triggers” that hit us emotionally and lead to these “whacko moments”. We want to keep the “gatekeeper” strong so that impertinent behavior does not break through. Traumatic experiences, alcohol, drugs, etc… break down the gate so they must be avoided if at all possible.
Typical “triggers” emanate from early childhood experiences or later traumatic hurts such as PTSD events. These could include abandonment, rejection, excessive criticism, “not good enough” messages, abuse from parents or significant others. PTSD experiences could be wartime trauma, physical or sexual assault, witnessing some horrible event, etc…
It is important to know your emotional wiring all the way back to, and especially, early childhood. Everyone has some buried emotional baggage held in the limbic portion of the brain that can be “triggered” forth when the right stimulus evokes it.
A few examples might help here.
- Alice criticizes Bob and Bob “sees red” and goes off on Alice with an angry rant. Bob was criticized severely by his Father and when Alice criticized him, his irrational right brain felt the buried “trigger” of his Dad and thus lashed out at Alice because it felt the same as his early childhood experience. A “whacko” lash out. The “gatekeeper” failed.
- Charlie and Donna were at a social gathering. Charlie spent most of the evening talking to his buddies and had a few flirtatious moments with other women at the party. When they got home Donna went off on him for leaving her alone. In this case Donna’s parents divorced early on and her Father rarely saw her and her Mother wasn’t around much because she was either working or dating. When Charlie didn’t spend time with her at the party Donna’s abandonment emotional memory was triggered and she went on this tirade. A “whacko” moment. The “gatekeeper” failed.
- Ernie was in a parking lot outside Publix. He was putting his groceries in the car when all of the sudden he heard a loud noise. He hit the ground. It turned out one car had crashed into another one row over. The loud sound had triggered his Iraq military experience when he was in a Jeep and a bomb went off near him. The sound was embodied in his limbic right brain and the noise “triggered” his irrational response of falling to the ground. Another embarrassing “whacko” over response to the situation. The “gatekeeper failed”.
Respected Reader, I invite you to get in touch with your deepest hurtful or scarring moments. Know that they are present in your right brain so be aware of any stimulus situation in which you may be vulnerable to an irrational “whacko” response if your “gatekeeper” doesn’t keep you in check.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates