Just as I was hitting the publish button on my last post, an earthquake rattled my house. Old fears flooded in quickly. My limbic system hijacked my rational brain. Suddenly, I was pregnant with my twins, in the hospital near the Marina district in San Francisco, and the 1989 quake was happening all over again.

In an instant, my heart was racing and my breathing labored. I knew in my rational mind I was safe, but the emotional memory of the ’89 quake coursed through my body. I allowed it to wash over me, all the time saying out loud, “I am safe.” ” I am safe.”  When my breathing and heart rate returned to normal, I thanked my limbic system for doing such a great job at trying to keep me safe. I gently let it know that next time, it doesn’t have to be so intense however.

It is challenging to get through life’s scary moments when our brain’s natural calming system is not working as it should. We have to use more of the rational, logical region of the brain to calm down our fearful thoughts. It takes a lot of energy.

If you encounter events that remind you of past traumas, I hope you can logically think your way through them. Remind yourself the scary emotions flooding through your body are just old memories, stored in your limbic system. Use your rational mind to talk yourself through the feelings.

I now know, from having calmed down very quickly after the quake, that once I am through withdrawals, I doubt too much is going to ruffle my feathers. I bet you will find the same healing has happened for you too.

Remember to use your rational brain to cope with the emotional flooding of the reactive brain.

Dr. Jenn