Let’s stop vilifying coping mechanisms

Let's stop vilifying coping mechanisms.

Amygdala and stress emotion management

Coping mechanisms that originate from emotionally intense situations are the best response our amygdala could find in the midst of abject fear. Humans always choose the option that appears safest and most inline with their internal understanding of life.  Once they are in place and the brain has utilized them to “manage” ongoing emotional discomfort, there is very little choice around using them in the face of a crisis.

You can't reason with Chicken Little

To recover from trauma requires physical, mental and emotional safety, as well as time for introspection. If recovery doesn't occur, the amygdala stays in an activated state and continues to manage. Picture a tiny sabertooth tiger in your brain. It has destroyed it's little house and is running willy-nilly screaming that the sky is falling. You can't reason with it and you can't gag it. Your frontal lobe will try to function normally but will keep getting derailed by the alarm.  Calm, Kind, Compassionate care is what is needed, but your brain can't get there with all the noise and reoccurring panic.

Playpen for the amygdala

The first act of compassion is to scoop up the sabertooth tiger and give it love and reassurance. Sometimes we an do this for ourselves, other times we need help. Body re-regulation, Therapists and medications can be very helpful in eliciting the feeling of safety by calming the amygdala. Once the Amygdala is in a playpen and the human is safe, the processing can occur. This is the step that is often missed. Practicing mindfulness while a sabertooth tiger chews on your brain doesn't work. Ketamine can calm the amygdala, help the frontal lobe build a playpen and create a safe environment to work from.

We are humans. No Vulcans Here

Emotions are part of being human. When feeling our feelings grows so terrifying and untenable that we choose coping mechanisms that negatively impact our lives, we hit the tipping point.  This is where the choice lies. Are we willing to open the emotion closet and learn how to live with them or keep denying their existence and necessity? At MKKC, we understand where you are and are here to help you get to where you want to be.