All my life, I have lived in a state of emotional reactivity – on guard against perceived threats of harm. My body is wired for protection due to living in survival mode for most of my childhood years. Regardless of how I want to react or think that I can do things differently, given certain triggering circumstances, my body automatically kicks into a primitive state of flee, fight, or freeze mode and conditioned responses take over, producing predictable, unhealthy responses – every single time!
I used to think that was just the way I was – emotionally reactive and defensive, with no possibility of change. I felt hopeless and afraid. I was afraid that I would never experience true intimacy or freedom of this carnal behavior pattern – ugh! I wanted to believe that God had a better plan, but I just could not see it or figure it out.
Thank goodness God is bigger than my ability to figure things out! In recent years, I have discovered some exciting new information. Scientists who study the brain have discovered that the brain has plasticity – it has the capability of producing new neural connections. By combining new responses to triggering events, the brain can actually begin to heal by forming new connections that lead to healthier results. That’s extremely good news for someone like me!
Here’s how it works. In the context of secure loving relationships, we can begin to let our guard down, and as we trust God for our ultimate protection, we are able to practice new responses to our automatic reactions. With massive repetition and practice of combining new responses to old reactions, new brain connections can form and actually become strengthened over time (officially called myelination).
Wouldn’t it be awesome if our new automatic reaction to triggering events was peace, calm, and joy rather than fight, flight, or freeze! It is possible, and I believe that as we embrace this healing process of rewiring our minds, we will become more accurate reflections of Christ more of the time.