Everything went fairly smoothly, considering. And then we got in line at the checkout. You can imagine - every line long, lots of impatient people shifting their weight from one leg to another, frustrated sighs, people trying to squeeze through with their carts to get to the next aisle. Lots of kids - did I mention it was an early release day?
We wound up in the self-checkout line. When it was finally our turn, my fourteen year old bounced over and choose Spanish for the language. Just for fun. Because, you know, why not?
I found myself instantly irritated that she had gone ahead and done it without asking. And I didn't want to take the time to call the attendant over to cancel our order and start over. So, off we went - in Spanish.
And just like is typical with self-checkout at the grocery store, the computer voice kept stopping and asking me something (please remove the last item or please wait for an attendant) none of which I understood since it was in Spanish. I found myself getting more and more frustrated as the people in line stood and watched impatiently. I could feel their eyes rolling and sense their hands on their hips.
I snipped at my daughter, "See what mess you've gotten us into?"
She was mortified, as any fourteen year old would be. "Here why don't you do it," I practically announced. "Do you know how to say asparagus in Spanish? Go ahead and type it in."
And now they are all watching me angrily chastise my teenager, I thought. I am as mortified as she is.
It was as if I were completely at the mercy of my more primitive brain. I could not see past the emotional experience of the moment: embarrassment, anger, shame. All I could think of was getting out of there as fast as possible. And I could not seem to manage the toxicity coming out of me.
It was all I could do to stay focused on task at hand (pay for the groceries and make my escape) and it didn't occur to me for one second to pause or breathe or maybe even both of those things.
We figured out the asparagus eventually and made our way out of the store. By the time we were to the car, I had cooled off. I could tell it was something I would laugh about eventually.
And hopefully learn from, too. Today I am making a note of what triggers my primitive brain: fumbling in front of an audience. To be more specific: having people witness my mistakes and shortcomings.
Knowing how it triggers me, perhaps next time I can remember to pause and/or breathe. Or at least keep my mouth closed instead of taking it out on those around me. Perhaps.
Always a work in progress...
When do you notice yourself being triggered into primitive brain? What would it look like if you could notice it happening in the moment?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.