The value of calm

Yesterday, I flipped out. I got really angry and frustrated about something I was doing online. I’m not proud of it but it happened.

You see, technology and I, we’re sort of frenemies. I love what it can do and the opportunities it provides but I really hate the mechanics. Let me make that clear – REALLY HATE the mechanics. Need me to build an Ikea cabinet? No problem. Need me to figure out how to make a lion mane with things around the house? I’ve got that covered. Ask me to figure out some handy little piece of software? Yikes! So, I have to work very hard not to start at anxious or the outcome will be very bad.

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Photo by Juliette Leufke

How does fear affect learning? My friend, Diane Imabeppu, an occupational therapist in the GTA who does all sorts of wonderful work with children, has a unique take on this. When Diane talks to children about how their brains work, she talks about hedgehogs and hippos. As Diane explains it, the amygdala, the almond-shaped structure deep in our brains is our hedgehog. It is constantly on the alert for potential threats. When it detects a threat it curls up into a ball, shutting down our higher thinking brain – the hippocampus – the part of our brain, which stores memories, among other things.

It’s a very simple analogy which I have used with my kids time and time again – particularly the oldest who has inherited some not so very great perfectionist traits from her mother. Whenever she has an assignment and she comes to it from a place of fear, she cannot use her big wonderful brain to come up with an answer. But once we talk through what is happening in her brain and how she needs to calm down to think clearly, all is good again.

So really I should know better. As I freaked out, I couldn’t help but think about my hedgehog.

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MaTylda by pani.minister licensed under CC BY 2.0

Having left this technology question unanswered from the night before, I dreaded returning to the task. My hedgehog retreated under its prickly coat of quills long before I even sat at the computer.

So I left. I went to the bookstore; bought myself a latte and a book. I recharged and left the problem to tackle at a later point. Sometimes, we just need some time away and a little perspective before we can figure things out.

I sure hope my hedgehog comes out to play tomorrow.

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