One of the things we hear over and over again from clients, colleagues, and friends is that it’s challenging to use The Fundamental Pause when they have a strong physiological reaction. They describe the experience of flashing with anxiety, anger, and fear so powerfully that they simply “need” to react.

We understand their experience as we have seen it in many clients over the years and have experienced it ourselves. There are those times when the physical nature of a reaction can be overpowering and when that rush of adrenaline makes it tempting to believe one must react.

One of the ways we have changed this pattern in our own lives, as well as helping clients in their lives, is with the image of the faulty alarm. Think of it this way:

If we were sitting together in our office and the fire alarm went off—we would have that quick physical reaction of surprise, and then we would get up, go out the door, down the stairs and outside. Once outside, we would assess what was happening and decide if it was safe to go back into the building.

If we met regularly and this happened 3 or 4 times, each time that we got outside and we found that there was no fire, we would begin to believe that the alarm was faulty. Once we recognized the alarm was faulty if we heard the shrill of the alarm, we would be surprised and our bodies would shake with adrenaline… but, we’d likely go to the hallway and give a quick sniff to reaffirm the fact that the alarm is faulty and then we’d go back to meeting, breathing deeply to calm our physiology. By the 7th or 8th time this happened we’d hear the shrill and shocking alarm, we’d be surprised and our bodies would shake with adrenaline but we would likely only look up and sniff for a second before going back to our meeting, breathing deeply to calm down our physiology.

Notice that our reaction to a shrill alarm going off out of the blue would not change at all. We would still have a strong physiological reaction to that alarm but we’d no longer believe that reaction to mean we should get out of the building NOW. We would change our response to our reaction.

Part of becoming more powerful and effective is assessing the accuracy of our internal alarms. Some of them go off because of things in our history and they no longer mean we are in danger. One of our clients, Brenda, had a mother who was quiet and hard to read but when she raised her voice, Brenda always knew that would be accompanied by getting hit. It was terrifying to her as a child and her mother raising her voice was a cue to get out of the room fast. In her current job, when her boss gets stressed he often raises his voice and Brenda understandably feels fear and is unable to continue to pay attention. Her boss is a good guy and is never abusive but for Brenda, it sets off alarms that shake her to her bones. Once she started to work with the idea of a faulty alarm system, she was able to change her response to her reaction and stay present and engaged with her boss.

Take some time this week to explore your faulty alarms. Identifying them and practicing responding differently to your reactions to them can give you a sense of power and confidence you didn’t believe possible.