We fancy ourselves as pretty tough in this country. ‘Get over yourself’ is a reasonably common phrase here. I also hear ‘I need to get over myself.’ ‘Getting oneself into a right lather’ is another colourful expression. As pragmatic people, many of us see emotionality as impractical or worse still, weak. However, just telling ourselves to ‘get over yourself’, and ignoring our state of mind, doesn’t work by itself.
It’s important to take note when we’re ‘out of sorts’ because in fact brain-wise we may be. By attending (i.e. ‘getting into yourself’) rather than ignoring our current state, we’ll make headway towards ‘getting over yourself’.
Understanding a bit about how the brain works helps us with some strategies in moving forward under pressure / when we feel threatened. Paul D. MacLean’s ‘triune’ brain is as old as the hills (the 1960s) and is well placed to help us understand the power and interplay of the three parts of the brain:
Top part – Mammalian brain (a cluster of brain structures that are key to us doing advanced mental tasks, including planning)
Middle part – Limbic brain (structures key to instinctual, social and nurturing human behaviours)
Base part – Reptilian brain (structures that are related to territoriality, including fight and flight, and ritual / repetitious behaviours).
The three parts are said to act in coordination or in competition with each other.When they act in coordination, balanced and integrated decision making is happening. When one part takes over (i.e. in competition) then myopic, short-term and imbalanced decisions are made. Balanced decision making is that which takes into account a breadth and depth of factors. Because of this, it is heralded as delivering robust long-term benefits to all those concerned.
Descriptions of the Reptilian part, can be rather negative. However, it’s not bad, it’s just that it can be so strong (we are hard-wired to protect ‘self,’ first and foremost) that it may override the other brain parts and therefore be the winner in the competition for attention.
When we are tired, feel threatened or in chronic / acute physical pain, these can cause an increased activity in the base part of the brain, and logic and sociability consequently go out of the window. Each of us has our own triggers and sensitivities, and it’s important using the top brain, to reflect and then acknowledge what those are, in order to set ourselves up for success.
Tiredness is a quite a common issue and, keeping it simple, getting a good night’s sleep is pivotal in setting ourselves up for success.A simple controlled breathing exercise you can use throughout the day is great for getting access to especially the top part of the brain. In just three minutes, you can regain your integrated composure: breathe in through your nose for five seconds and out through pursed lips (like when you drink with a straw) for five seconds. As you do this you are aiming for an expansion of your rib cage rather than of your upper chest. You may wish to begin with three seconds, since the breathing should not be laboured. The more you do it, the more you’ll be able to get into this balanced state of the three brain parts, because you will have made a lot of healthy neuro-connections. (‘Neurons that fire together wire together’).
This is not pop-science. A search on the internet will lead you to many clinically robust studies linking breathing with health, wellness and cognitive functioning.
So with self-compassion take note when you’re ‘out of sorts’ because in fact you literally may be. Then, get a good night’s sleep, and breathe well throughout the day. Ironically by attending (i.e. ‘getting into yourself’) rather than ignoring your current state, you’ll make significant steps toward ‘getting over yourself’.