The One Simple Principle: Take a Pause

The One Simple Principle: Take a Pause

The one simple principle this course is based on is taking a pause. When you feel that your emotions are starting to overtake your reasoning, pausing that process allows you reconnect back to yourself, to your deepest values and desires for your relationship with your kids, and to your ability to integrate your thoughts and emotions so that you can act with intention rather than just react.

When I was in parent education classes at our local co-operative preschool, we learned about the hand model of the brain, as described by Dr. Dan Siegel. The palm represents the brainstem and the thumb is the limbic system, which work together to regulate your stress response and are your emotional center. The fingers represent the cortex – the rational, thinking center, part of which also regulates the limbic system and brain stem. (You can see his short video explanation of the hand model here.)

When the brain is functioning calmly, the hand model looks like a fist with the thumb under the fingers and all the parts connected and working together. However, when we get excessively emotionally triggered and the stress response is fully engaged, the brain functions more like an open, flat hand – the cortex functionally disconnects from brain stem and limbic system, and our emotions take over our ability to think rationally. He calls this experience of disconnection “flipping your lid.”

Flipping your lid is really helpful sometimes, like when your life is in immediate danger, and you need all the adrenaline your body can muster to save yourself. But it’s not helpful when you need access to the rational part of your brain for creatively solving a non-life-threatening problem in front of you – like your kid’s challenging behavior.

The fundamental thing you must do to get your whole brain back to working together – both the emotional and rational parts – is to take a pause. If you take action with a “flipped lid,” you’ll very likely say and do things you’ll regret later. Taking a pause – and doing some specific things during that pause, like the ones you’ll learn in this course – allows your brain to calm down and reconnect.