At church today there was a marriage therapist speaking about relationships and one of the analogies she made really stuck with me. She described our emotions like a smoke detector. A smoke detector blares it’s alarm full blast if it detects smoke. It doesn’t matter if your house is on fire or you burned your toast. At the first sign of trouble the warning signs start sounding to let you know to get ready for a possible disaster.
Our brains are designed like this as well. We are made with a built in fight or flight response. As soon as we sense danger our natural instinct to protect ourselves kicks in. Our brains draw all the energy from the outer reaches of our thought processes to be used for basic protective functions.
This is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. My smoke detector often runs unchecked. As soon as I sense something isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, my alarms start blaring and I ratchet up to 11. I’m in full on attack mode before I process the threat. Sometimes it’s a decision I disagree with at work or something someone says that gets under my skin. I don’t always take the time to assess if my house is on fire or if my toast just got burned.
Our students get this way too. They don’t always know how to deal with complex emotions, so when trouble arises, they automatically shift into defense mode. When they reach that point their brains are no longer primed to hear what you have to say or learn new material. They need to de-escalate to process. They also don’t always come to us with the skills needed to assess what an appropriate response should be.
Knowing this about myself and my students, this week I’m going to ask myself one question. Is my house on fire or did I just burn some toast…translation: is this problem worth getting upset about or is it something I should just move past? Hopefully I can teach my students some of these same skills.