Updated: Oct 14
I often refer to the moment of uh-oh in coaching. While this phrase might be new to you, I can pretty much guarantee you know what the moment of uh-oh is if you are reading my blog. The moment of uh-oh is when we can feel our system start to react. It’s that split second when we realize we are triggered and are starting to feel symptoms.
In this moment, the brain and nervous system are going into old, learned protective patterns in an attempt to keep us safe. We have activated our unconscious survival brain (limbic system) and those reactions are strong. They are meant to be, that’s what has kept us alive as a species for thousands of years. In that moment, our brain tends to go to “oh no, here it comes.” There is commonly a big rush of fear that accompanies this realization and we brace ourselves for the all the symptoms we have learned to expect after getting triggered.
We often unconsciously feed these reactions when in the moment of uh-oh. We fall into our old ways of thinking, feeling and behaving in response to feeling triggered and we unintentionally feed the fear that comes along with these reactions. This often doesn’t feel like a choice, our unconscious survival brain takes over and away we go. Starting to identify the moment of uh-oh and see it as a crossroads can be a very effective way to steer the brain and nervous system out of these old, unhelpful patterns.
When the moment of uh-oh strikes (and it will, that’s part of the rewiring process), we can notice it and choose our response. Instead of falling into all of those old, programed responses to the moment of uh-oh, can we instead make a different choice? Instead of taking the old, familiar path to the left, can we turn towards the new path to the right? It doesn’t have to be a big, massive change in how we respond to the moment of uh-oh. That expectation is often unrealistic and keeps us from making a different choice. Instead, what is one small way we can respond differently when we notice the moment of uh-oh? Over time, those small new choices will add up to a big change in how we respond to the moment of uh-oh and the reactions lessen and eventually go away. We are taking the charge out of the moment of uh-oh and no longer feeding the fear.
This takes time. Learning to gently steer the survival brain and nervous system out of fear and old, ingrained reactions is a process. We are using our conscious brain to direct our unconscious brain and that doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, practice, patience and a lot of self-compassion we can use our mind to change our brain for the better.
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