I continue to be impressed with Karl Lehman’s book, Outsmarting Yourself, Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do About It. Karl is the psychiatrist in Chicago who developed the Immanuel method which we use to connect with God and process pain. According to Karl, there is specific circuitry in the brain that is active when we are relational. When we are relational we feel connected to others and we want that connection. When our emotional intensity stays within the limits of our capacity, we are able to engage well with others and stay relational. When the intensity or duration of an emotion exceeds our capacity, we become overwhelmed and we lose the ability to stay relational to varying degrees. This is like plugging too many appliances into an electrical circuit. If we exceed the capacity, we will trip the circuit and electricity no longer flows. In the same way we can overload our relational circuits. Healing increases our capacity so as we heal we should be able to stay engaged at higher and higher levels of intensity without becoming overwhelmed. Capacity is limited (except for God) but it can grow throughout our lifetime.
Many factors can reduce capacity. One of the primary ways is lack of sleep. We’ve all experienced how hard it is to deal with even minor bumps in life when we are tired.
There will be times when situations exceed your relational capacity. It is okay. But it is really good for us to be aware when this is happening so we can get our circuits back online. The circuits affect all of our relationships including our ability to connect with God and people. By now all of you who are familiar with Theophostic Prayer Ministry will recognize that having your circuits off is similar to being triggered.
In his book Karl outlines an objective way of recognizing when your relational circuits are fading or going off. How many of you have gotten into an argument with a spouse or friend about who was more triggered? It’s you! No, it you! Well here is an objective way to know if you are triggered.
When you are upset ask yourself:
1. Do I feel connected to ____________? (Fill in the name of the person involved).
2. Do I want to be connected to ________?
3. Do I experience them as unique, valuable, relational beings?
4. Am I aware of their true hearts?
5. Do I feel compassionate concern regarding what they are thinking and feeling?
6. Do I want to offer attunement? (More on this below)
7. Am I able to offer attunement?
8. Am I free of judgment?
9. Do I experience their presence as a source of joy? (As opposed to a problem to be solved or a resource to be used).
10. Am I glad to be with them?
11. Am I comfortable making eye contact with them? (Other than angry glaring).
12. Am I flexible and creative (as opposed to rigid and unable to think outside the box) with respect to thoughts and behavioral options?
13. Am I patient and tolerant (or impatient, intolerant and irritable)?
14. Do I perceive others as allies, and want to join, explore, understand and collaborate? (As opposed to perceiving others as adversaries, tending toward judging, interrogating, and focusing on trying to “fix” the situation).
15. Can I recall past positive experiences with the person and do I feel the positive emotions that should be associated with these good memories?
16. Can I think of things I appreciate about the person, and do I feel gratitude as I think about these specific appreciations?
Note that these questions are not asking about how you ought to feel but what feelings spontaneously and involuntarily arise.
Karl’s book and hundreds of page of essays are available at KCLehman.com and at ImmanuelApproach.com.
If your relational circuits are offline, how do you get them back online?
According to Karl, one of the fastest ways to get your circuits back online is to have someone attune to you. To do this they should have their circuits on, have the capacity to do so in that area, and be willing to help you:
- feel seen
- feel heard
- feel understood
- feel that he/she is with you
- feel that he/she cares about you
- feel that he/she is glad to be with you
Karl notes that friends with the capacity and maturity to attune to us are not often available when we need this kind of help. If you are able to experience the Lord’s presence you can also let him attune to you.
2, Do the Shalom For My Body exercise, followed by Shalom For My Heart and Soul worksheet from the Belonging workbook. This may be the best option if you both are highly triggered or don’t have access to TPM.
Shalom for my Body Demonstration on You Tube
3. Practice appreciation. Think of three things you are grateful for and remember those things in detail. Enter into the memory of what it feels like to savor a favorite meal, a time with a friend of a beautiful landscape. As you dwell in a place of gratitude, your relational circuits will come back on. You can do this even if difficult circumstances. My husband is fighting MDS and as he had his first transfusion (which took 13 hours!) we came up with a list of ten things we were grateful for. Right. In. the. hospital.room. It lifted our spirits and helped us realize that God was with us in the midst of our pain. Here is our list from December 23, 2016 when we were trying to get to Asheville to celebrate Christmas with our children and granddaughter: