If You’re Being Held Hostage To The Past, It’s Time To Breathe

by Jul 26, 2017

What Defines You?

Have you ever been taken hostage to the past? It’s time to learn to just breathe and begin the healing process of a broken heart.
Have you ever reacted out of character and afterwards wondered why you did what you did? It happens to all of us and I’ll tell you why.

I ran for my life.

When I lived on the m.v. Logos, one day I happily entered a room. Confronted by something unexpected, in terror I ran.
There was no logical or rational reason to run. I was not in danger. Recent studies of the brain give the answer; my amygdala was triggered to an imaginary threat. Triggered, I could not think – all I could do was flee.

I Didn’t Want to Do It

When we find ourselves acting in a way that doesn’t make sense, we have probably been triggered by the amygdala. Let’s look at a few scenarios that explore ways we are triggered. 

Scenario #1

Your daughter was supposed to be home two hours ago and you can’t reach her. You are about to phone the hospital when she walks in the door. Instead of demonstrating gratitude she is alive, you snap at her. You reacted in fear, triggered by your amygdala, perhaps based on a memory of someone you knew who was in a terrible accident.

Scenario #2

Your husband slipped up from behind you with a bouquet of flowers and startled. You yell at him. Your amygdala triggered you based on a past memory of danger.

Scenario #3

You are in a crowded mall. There are angry shouts and then a sound like a gun. You dove to the ground, dragging your wife or child with you. Perhaps you have experienced a school shooting or danger on the battlefield. The confusion of the mall, shouts, and loud explosive sound overloaded your senses. Triggered by your amygdala, instinctively you tried to protect your family and yourself by becoming a smaller target. Later you are irritable and easily angered.

Memories Hold Us Hostage and Impair The Healing Process of a Broken Heart

Our amygdala holds memories of fear, trauma, and abuse. Some fears are learned en utero when you experienced your mother’s fear.

Today, when you are triggered, you aren’t responding to the person or situation you currently face. Instead, you react to an imaginary threat or perceived assault on your safety.

This is especially true if you suffer from PTSD.

The enemy holds us captive to fearful memories in the amygdala. Reacting in fear or anger, we move into the flesh. Triggered, we behave in a way that dishonors ourself, others, and the Lord Jesus.

Just Breathe. There is hope. You can learn what triggers you.

When you find yourself starting to react – it is important to stop and just breathe.

  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose.
  • Hold it, 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5.
  • Now exhale – a slow, deep, and intentional exhalation of air through your nose.

That is good! Now do it again, for this enables you to think with clarity.

As you take time to just breathe, it down-regulates your amygdala and enables you to move out of the reactivity of the reptilian brain that yells danger.
Exhaling through your nose switches you into the thoughtfulness and cognitive functioning of your pre-frontal cortex. As you continue to be intentional in your breathing, it enables you to choose how you respond to the current reality that confronts you. You are no longer reactive. You are responding with thoughtfulness and clarity.

Inhale & Exhale Through The Nose

I love learning about the brain; it is a fascinating organ that is on duty, working on our behalf 24 hours of every day. An article on Mindful.org says, “A new study has found evidence to show that there is actually a direct link between nasal breathing and our cognitive functions.” 

Take Your Time

I am sure you have heard that when you are angry, you should count to ten. There is a scientific principle behind that saying that really works.

With slow deep exhales of breath, your amygdala loses power to hold you in fear. As fear releases its grip, it enables you to relax. As you slowly inhale through your nose, you are enabled to think with clarity and respond in a more intelligent and compassionate manner.

So my friend, the next time you feel overwhelming fear or anger – stop!

As you do, lift your eyes to the Lord. Take a deep breath. Allow the breath of God’s Spirit to fill your being. He is with you and He will enable you to respond under His authority in a way that is honoring to yourself, to others, and to Him.

God bless you!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

2 Timothy 1:7

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