Friday, November 21, 2014

Fight or Flight

I liked our new marriage counselor immediately. She's deadpan, and I don't tend to run the roads with suchlike, but Lord help: when sparks are flying between him and me--or me and me, for that matter--the counselor's impassivity is such a gift. Also, she has the kindest eyes I've ever seen.

She's seeing us separately, for now. When she asked, last session, what I was learning or thinking, or how the Lord was leading, I told her a little about a class I'm taking through Canvas Network on behavior management. It emphasizes making small shifts in one's own behavior, as teacher, in order to impact the behavior of one's students. I signed up for the class because I'd never studied behavior management and had recognized a deficiency when teaching sixth-grade English, also because I find myself flailing in this area, even now, while home educating Jim's and my four- and five-year-old daughters.

Online instructor Paul Dix explains: humans have both an emotional mind (the limbic brain) and a rational mind (the prefrontal cortex). The emotional mind is dominant and has--smack-dab in the middle of it--a nut-shaped object called the Amygdala. The Amygdala's job is to respond to threat signals (Danger!) by releasing small bursts of hormones into the rational brain. Once the Amygdala has triggered, rational thinking stops, and a body prepares for fight or flight.

My emotional mind, I told the marriage counselor, controls me too often. I'm pretty much always ready for fight or flight, and while I'd thought I'd like to be a person who yells a little less, especially at the kids, I hadn't realized the serious ramifications of such behavior. If any of us is "on eggshells," so to speak, (s)he isn't learning the way she should...which may well provide the single best explanation for why I'm not a genius by now.

At this point, the counselor whipped out a couple of huge, matching volumes, and we took turns reading aloud through a section on being reactionary. "Well, what do you think?" she asked when we finished. "Can you relate to any of that?"

"I can relate to all of it," I said, then: "I had no idea I was so broken."

"We're all broken," she said, "and the point isn't to beat yourself up. This is learned behavior, and it's difficult to overcome. But you're worth it; do you hear me? You're worth it. And so are those you love."

I'd tell you I haven't written much, lately, because I've been busy, but truth is: I've been busy for far longer than the four years I've been blogging. It's closer to the truth to say I've been learning and processing so much that I haven't been able figure out how or where to start sharing.

Jim's and my marriage isn't any happier than any other romantic relationship I've ever had, which is to say: it isn't very happy at all. Jim's and my marriage is holy, however. The way we deal with one another isn't holy, always (or even most of the time), but if nothing else, our marriage has an "iron sharpening iron" quality to it.

This man will not leave me alone. He will not let me be who I am. It's exhausting. I feel picked at, nitpicked, roosterpecked.


I have to ask myself: have I become, over the course of this relationship, closer to who God would have me be? And yes. Unequivocally. God doesn't leave us alone, either; does He?


  1. THIS IS FASCINATING! I think when we are willing to do the right thing then the Lord gives us the tools to do that. It sounds like you are in a good place. Learning, Jesus always wants us in this spot. Love you girl!

  2. What an insightful post. Not having anything to compare a marriage to, I can only imagine how difficult it might be at times. I hope the therapy accomplishes your goals.

    Peace <3

  3. I have read this 3 times and I still have not digested or wrapped around these words, this brilliant piece ..."iron sharpening iron"...stuff... I love it , its real, its thought provoking and I love it, I repeat....please submit your writings to contests....its above the average bear....its already sharpened..... embrace it , I do.

  4. Brandee,

    I am reminded of the Beatles' song, "We Can Work It Out."

    Best wishes.



  5. I just cannot resist saying this Brandee - so is Jim God-like? LOL (because he won't leave you alone)! Now, after reading this - do you still have to move next door to me - you need to bring your counselor, too - for my compassion gifted son who is also too reactionary/fight/flight. You know what I think, though - that aren't fleeing - you're fighting the good fight - and that is so God-awesome beautiful!

    1. Jim is not always God-like. Far from it!!!!! What I will say, though, is that God is using him to change me. Sometimes, Jim picks at something in my character until I (being a stubborn one) give in out of exhaustion/weariness and confront it myself. In the end, I'm the only one who can change it or rid myself of it! Other times, Jim's poor/inappropriate behavior forces me to revisit unresolved brokenness and pain from my past. What I mean to say is that there are things I've stuffed--things I've never addressed or even LEARNED to address--that I am now confronting. I'm trying to find healing for then on top of now, and it will ultimately be a very good and positive thing (for my children, especially, and generations to come), but it is very difficult at the moment.