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Emotions, reactions and consequences

By Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, NCC | February 26, 2023 

Many behaviors arise from a fight, flight, freeze response to trauma. This is also known as amygdala hijack, when emotions overwhelm the brain to the point that higher thinking cannot be accessed (Holland, 2021). Sometimes, emotions are so strong that a person does not even remember what he or she did in the moment (Earles, 2022). Still, the actions have consequences. Walls punched in a fit of rage require repair. Running away from a conflict requires a walk home. Going comatose eventually requires awakening. When the higher-level brain activity re-engages, there is work to be done.

Part of therapy is gaining awareness about emotions, their triggers, and a person’s reactions. As a person gains awareness, he or she can make choices to have a better life (Seeman, 2009). The goal of gaining awareness of the consequences of negative behavior is not to create shame or blame, but rather to have appropriate guilt. As Robyn Gobbel (2022) states, “Guilt is an important human emotion given that we are a relational species–it keeps us working on self and the relationship.” Awareness and guilt can create change, hopefully in a positive direction for the person and his or her life.

Behaviors make sense in context. Behaviors also have consequences in context. While the consequence should “fit the crime,” understanding where the behavior comes from helps address the root of the problem, rather than just putting a band aid on the issue. With understanding comes the ability to make choices, the ability to create change, and maybe just maybe, the ability to take preventative action. If the person, and/or society can help account for or reduce the contexts in which consequential behaviors occur, life and the world can actually start to change to be better for all.

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Many behaviors arise from a fight, flight, freeze response to trauma. This is also known as amygdala hijack, when emotions overwhelm the brain to the point that higher thinking cannot be accessed (Holland, 2021). Sometimes, emotions are so strong that a person does not even remember what he or she did in the moment (Earles, 2022). Still, the actions have consequences. Walls punched in a fit of rage require repair. Running away from a conflict requires a walk home. Going comatose eventually requires awakening. When the higher-level brain activity re-engages, there is work to be done.

Part of therapy is gaining awareness about emotions, their triggers, and a person’s reactions. As a person gains awareness, he or she can make choices to have a better life (Seeman, 2009). The goal of gaining awareness of the consequences of negative behavior is not to create shame or blame, but rather to have appropriate guilt. As Robyn Gobbel (2022) states, “Guilt is an important human emotion given that we are a relational species–it keeps us working on self and the relationship.” Awareness and guilt can create change, hopefully in a positive direction for the person and his or her life.

Behaviors make sense in context. Behaviors also have consequences in context. While the consequence should “fit the crime,” understanding where the behavior comes from helps address the root of the problem, rather than just putting a band aid on the issue. With understanding comes the ability to make choices, the ability to create change, and maybe just maybe, the ability to take preventative action. If the person, and/or society can help account for or reduce the contexts in which consequential behaviors occur, life and the world can actually start to change to be better for all.

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