By Mary McHugh
As humans we can be strange creatures. Most of us need to have an understanding about what may be happening to us, and this allows for us to see more clearly what may be going on for us at any particular time.
We are creatures of habit and this allows for some ease to be in our lives. We know through our routines what comes next etc. We get up, we shower, we have breakfast and the routine goes on until we come to night time and it begins all over again. Most of us tended to go about our lives on automatic pilot and have suddenly been woken up by all that unfolded for us in March 2020, when Covid-19 took hold and turned the world as we have known it up side down.
Our brain, and the way its made up, tends to dictate to us how we will react given certain circumstances. Our brain has been evolving over millions of years and we still have within us our primal, primitive animalistic brain. This is a highly reactive part of us. It can be seen as nearly newborn in nature. It screams for its needs to be met and has no regard for where they make a mess or who might see it.
Also housed within the brain is the amygdala, which I like to refer to as the ‘Fire Alarm’ of the system. This is where our ‘Fight’, ‘Flight’, Freeze, ‘Faint’ can be activated. What makes us different from the animal world is that we have a cerebral cortex and this plays major part in intelligence, reasoning, empathy.
Innately we know how the body works if we take time to listen to it. In my studies, it became very clear that we were speaking the language of the amygdala and the cerebral cortex, but in an embodied way. Have you ever heard the saying ‘Y’er man is after blowing his top’ or ‘She is after flipping her lid’? This is what happens when we get a shock or fright that we are not prepared for. The cortex lifts, so to speak, and we are left with the amygdala exposed. This causes us to fight, take flight or run away.
In relationships this is showing itself very clearly since we began lockdown. We do not know what is happening. Life is uncertain. We are all acting differently. Overworked, not working, home schooling, distressed children, teens wanting to be teens and the list goes on. Some of us are in denial, others are hyper-vigilant and everywhere in between. It’s really important we ‘get our lids down’. The way we do this is:
- We come to our ‘senses’: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smell
- We verbalise how we are feeling: No one can read our minds
- We understand that it is not only me that is struggling
- Control what you can and let go of what you cannot
- Check the evidence around what your anxiety is
- Check in with your partner and what their needs may be
- Talk about how you see things and be open to it not being the same for your partner
- Take time out if the ‘lid flips’. Come back and discuss once you have come to ‘your senses’
We have no control how others are coping. The only person I have control over is myself. I have to be the change in this. Covid-19 is actually asking us to do this. Stay in your house, so to speak, and control your part and be understanding in how another is reacting. We have no idea what may be going on for another if they do not tell us.
Since March we have seen many couples struggling. It’s normal given the extreme circumstances we are in. It is great to see so many reaching out and getting the support that is out there. The really great thing about our service is that it can be done from the comfort of your own home; when the children are sleeping, or if you work in a different country at this stressful time, you can still get support and counselling as a couple.
Our motto since 2011 has been ‘Where ever You are, We are’. We are looking to become a ‘household name’ should you ever need our service.