Seriously – food allergies, medicines we’re on it aren’t we? Whether it’s life threatening, causes mildly inconvenient symptoms or anything in between, it’s a physical trigger causing a physical reaction and we pay attention to it. We know what we are allergic to, we know what we need to do about it and generally we avoid contact with the substances involved.
Have you ever considered your emotional allergies? I believe we all have them, you might even be having one right now reading this. Put simply, an allergy is an uncontrolled inflammatory reaction to a specific trigger. Think about this from an emotional perspective – a specific person or a specific topic repeatedly trigger negative responses in you. It might be anger, discontent, inadequacy, sadness, fear, it might be something else for you, but left unchecked all of these impact both your judgement and your decision making.
I have spent a happy evening researching new neuroscience evidence – a favourite pastime which often sends me off down some interesting – but not often relevant – rabbit hole. Tonight’s rabbit hole reminded me why rabbit holes can sometimes be a good thing.
Many years ago I decided to study an extra course in radical philosophy while at college – just because it was interesting, (and probably because it was not part of the curriculum I’d been told to study). Anyway, the understanding of philosophy, and specifically Plato’s Metaxy, paid dividends tonight as I got engrossed in truth and post-truth impact on connection and increased social anxiety – you can expect a more intelligent blog on this once I’ve digested my findings.
For now, it got me thinking about emotional allergies, the things you react to and create meaning around which might just be based on the B*lls**t your brain is feeding on.
Your reaction, whether good or bad, habitual or unexpected comes from the stories unconsciously (or consciously) run. Here’s the thing, it’s not how you feel that makes something true – or even right or wrong. It is consideration, analysis and judgement or all the truths or the evidence – internal and external. It is very easy to trust your intuition and make a quick decision and, to be fair, most of the time you will be right. Just check you don’t have an emotional allergy – otherwise faster than you can say ‘processing power’, your brain will have responded to your emotion and constructed reasons for your decision or action that you will call intuition.
Remember your brain is biased and your emotions tell lies – or at least not the whole truth.
It’s not hard to find your emotional allergies, and the great news is it is often easier to do something about them than with physical allergies. You may have realised you have an allergy while you’ve been reading this. If you’re not sure how to work out whether you have an allergy give this a go. Do it honestly, trust your first reaction and don’t judge – this is an exercise in awareness, nothing more. Below are just a few words, test out the exercise with your own words if you prefer.
Look at each of the words below and become aware of your emotions:
Entrepreneurial Spiritualism Money
Capitalism Feminism Freelancer
Authentic Conformist Whining
Profit Activist Rebellion
If you felt a negative reaction, or the need to justify why the word is bad in some way then the chances are you have an allergy – the extent of your reaction may determine the severity.
Like many things relating to your brain, you can choose to do something about your allergies once you know about them. Let’s face it the very fact you know about something changes the way you process it.
Things to try:
- Know your triggers and how much exposure you can handle. Try an emotional ‘patch test’ – nothing with high stakes, test out your reactions, and have an exit strategy.
- If you are triggered, give your brain time to catch up before you respond – I’m referring to the BS intuition your brain presents as evidence. Taking a pause may prevent you from reacting in a way you later regret.
- Know that those who best push your buttons are those who put them there – family, partners, close friends. You won’t always be able to avoid them, but you can know those buttons are to serve their ends not to benefit you – awareness might stop you reacting.
- Finally, congratulate yourself for your successes, keep a sense of humour and don’t ever judge yourself – we are all work in progress.
I hope you enjoy this journey of self-discovery and if you want to share what you find do join me in the braver group.